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Mexican attorney general's resignation shows failure of prohibition strategy to stop drug trafficking

David Borden [Executive Director, StoptheDrugWar.org]: "The resignation of Mexico's Attorney General in the midst of a veritable war between the government and drug traffickers - and amongst trafficking organizations - is unlikely to change much in the grand scheme of things. Prohibition will continue to divert billions of dollars from the licit economy into the organized criminal economy. Criminal organizations benefiting from those funds will continue to fight each other for control of turf, continue to fight the government when they find it necessary, and continue to bribe government officials. Mexican and American police organizations will continue to interdict some modest fraction of the drug supply before it reaches the consumers - some will resell it for personal profit - and the cartels orchestrating the trade will continue to produce a quantity of cocaine and opium equal to the projected consumer demand plus the amounts they anticipate will be seized by law enforcement. The net supply will continue to roughly equal the demand, and the frequent, sometimes addicted users will continue to use as they have done so all this time. And cartel leaders will continue to plough their vast profits into a diversified set of businesses, both clean and dirty.

The answer to the drug trade violence problem, the drug corruption problem, and even some of the public health problems related to drug abuse, is to end prohibition. That means legalization, in some well thought out, controlled form. Legalization would quickly put organized criminal groups out of the drug business, dramatically shrinking their total revenues and power. But it would also free addicts from the incubus of the criminal underground, which currently afflicts them with debilitating-level high prices, overdoses and poisonings due to the lack of regulation, spread of infectious diseases through the encouragement of needle sharing, fear of not being able to secure one's "fix," fear of getting caught, fear of seeking help. Political leaders in the US don't like to talk about this, but more and more Mexicans are doing so.

In the meanwhile, it's an open secret that President Calderon's crackdown is partly the cause of the dramatic escalation in violence with its grim consequences, over 4,500 deaths so far this year alone. As President Obama commented for CBS last March, "[Calderon] has taken them on in the same way that when, you know, Elliot Ness took on Al Capone back during Prohibition, oftentimes that causes even more violence." Short of ending prohibition, Mexico's choices may be limited to a return to the previous business-as-usual model with its lower level of violence, while fighting criminal corruption but more slowly and less dramatically; or an ongoing war that will claim tens or even hundreds of thousands more lives while failing to accomplish its goal. Scholars have much to offer on the first path, though politicians for obvious reasons don't like to publicly give such ideas voice."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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