No dreadlocked revelers smoked celebratory reefers in the streets, no armies of conservatives protested, the Mexican media raised no hullabaloo. Quietly and with little ado, Mexico last week enacted a law to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all major narcotics, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and crystal meth. Anyone caught in Mexico with two or three joints or about four lines of cocaine can no longer be arrested, fined or imprisoned. However, police will give them the address of the nearest rehab clinic and advise them to get clean.Of course, it will not be so easy or painless here, mostly because of the American presumption that law=morality. Since we don't approve of people doing drugs*, those who choose to use chemicals not FDA- or ATF-approved need to be thrown in prison where the rest of us can remain safe from their pernicious influence while providing their room and board.
Most surprising was how easily and painlessly the reform slipped into Mexican law...
I suspect that may be coming to an end here for budgetary reasons, and perhaps surprisingly soon. In 2008, states made the easy budget cuts and used up their gimmicks. For 2009 they are making real cuts, though how meaningful they truly are is debatable**. Next year absolute revenues will be down again, across the board, as property tax drops catch up with the falling market and as people shift more of their purchases to downscale and secondary (i.e. garage sale) markets.
Real cuts are coming. That means that states are going to have to make real changes in programs, including that program of social control that locks the chemically non-conforming in metal cages. It will probably start with a gentleman's agreement between sheriffs and prosecutors to simply ignore small caches before some legislator has the guts to simply repeal the penalties***.
If the feds insist on drugs being illegal, a smart and fiscally-responsible state will leave enforcement to them as much as they can get away with.
UPDATE: here we go:
Denver's marijuana policy review panel agreed Wednesday to send a letter to the presiding judge of Denver County Court urging a $1 fine as penalty for possession of marijuana of less than an ounce...* other than those with TV commercials that urge you to "ask your doctor about..."
Tvert said lowering the fine would send a message to police "that it is not worth their time or the court's to issue any more citations."
** Despite the howls, a 3 or 5% cut to most programs will have absolutely no impact on end results.
*** Drugs may have to remain illegal under state law so states can "get federal money," which is a way of taxing their citizens while claiming it as a benefit to them. But the Feds do not require a certain position on the sentencing grid as far as I know.