In order to end the cartel violence in Mexico, former president Vicente Fox thinks all drugs should be legalized, what he calls “the whole enchilada.”
Don’t get Vicente Fox started on Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. Oh, why not?
“I just don’t like those two guys,” he says during a phone interview from his home base in the village of San Cristobal, in the state of Guanajuato about four hours northwest of Mexico City. “I don’t think the United States should be in the hands of those two guys. The November midterm elections are a great opportunity for the people of the United States to stop Trump from doing crazy things, to stop him through a strong liberal Congress, a Congress that looks to the future, not this blinded position of Trump looking at the past. He wants a very strong government that controls the borders and decides the fate of society and people. Your citizens should never accept that. The United States is the vanguard, the leader on developed thinking, on freedom of choice, on unity of purpose. This guy should be kicked out.”
The Canna Mexico World Summit, the international cannabis conference that Fox’s company Centro Fox is presenting on May 30-31 in San Cristobal, is just weeks away. This is the main reason for the phone call, to get the word out to the U.S. industry.
“It’s going to be a global event with people from Israel, Europe, South America, Mexico, the United States and Canada,” the former Mexican president explains. “The whole purpose is to push forward the process of legalization. Medical use has been approved, but we have yet to see the regulation. We have to take the step to move forward to total legalization that includes responsible recreational use. We’re going to have 1,500-2,000 people here. It’s going to be a high-impact event.”
But in the same sentence, he rails against his government’s plan to not allow local production and processing for medical cannabis, which he calls “absolutely stupid. How can you open an industry that’s going to generate income and jobs, and you don’t allow it to produce in Mexico? We are fighting against that.”
FOX: “The War on Drugs is useless. It has not produced the benefits that President Nixon envisioned 60 years ago.”
On June 19, 2017, Mexico’s Congress legalized medical cannabis, but like many U.S. states, it permits only products containing less than 1% THC. Since Mexican farmers are not permitted to grow it, low-THC cannabis has to be imported. Several months later, in August, HempMeds became the first foreign company to sell CBD oil to Mexico.
“It’s going to be on the market,” Fox says. “The retailing will be here, but not the production. That’s wrong on the side of Mexican authorities. But the rest is wide open.”
Fox is referring to the prospects of both overall cannabis legalization in Mexico and ending the prohibition of other illegal drugs. “One step we’ve already taken, which is medical,” he notes. “Now we have to move forward to recreational use. We have witnessed in the rest of the world that it works, and it works well. We see a lot of blood on the streets of Mexico today because of the criminals. It’s a profound change in policy. You can’t go with pieces, that’s where the authorities are wrong. We have to take the whole enchilada.”
The violence and mayhem caused by the drug cartels are a foremost concern for the former president. “When I was president (2000-2006), we had the lowest crime rate in Mexico ever, historically,” Fox recalls. “Today, the crime rate has gone up 400%! Legalization is a strategy that will result in a very significant collateral benefit of reducing violence, crime and the killings in Mexico. With that argument, we’ve been able to sell the public that this can be the best solution to something we have not been able to solve. The War on Drugs has been growing and growing not only here, but in the world. It’s useless. It has not produced the benefits that President Nixon envisioned 60 years ago. That has not worked. So, we have to come up with a new solution, not only using this plant for medical use and to solve many health problems that many people have, but also to solve the crime and violence that we have in Mexico.”
FOX: “The market in Mexico is not that wide or significant. The problem is the huge, mammoth drug-consumer market in the United States.”
In 2017, 25,340 people were murdered in Mexico, mostly by drug-cartel violence. That figure is expected to exceed 30,000 this year. Would legalization put the cartels out of business? “Not immediately, and not necessarily,” says Fox. “But certainly, it will be very helpful. It will take away a lot of the money they enjoy today.”
Additionally, he points out that “all the money from the Mexican cartels is raised in the States. The market in Mexico is not that wide or significant. The problem is the huge, mammoth drug-consumer market in the United States. Public opinion is confused thinking that Mexicans are invading the market, but the Mexicans are the ones distributing the drugs. The drugs today are produced down south in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Mexico is only the transit place. The drugs come through Mexico to reach the U.S. market. Yet, here in Mexico we’re killing ourselves trying to prevent the drugs from getting to the U.S. market.”
Fox says legalization, like what’s happened with marijuana in nine U.S. states, “is the way to go. This change of policy would bring in many positive new things, like becoming an industry, jobs, paying taxes, creating entrepreneurs and improving farmers’ incomes. At the same time, it’s a big hit against criminal cartels.” He also favors giving “criminals that are trafficking to the United States the opportunity to participate in an open, legal business” as a form of an equity program.
“The best two examples of legalization are Holland and Portugal,” Fox continues. “They really sold the whole package—total legalization for all drugs for all uses. This leaves the responsibility of consuming to the person, the consumer. The state won’t be able to prevent people from falling into this trap. We are each created free and we must make ourselves responsible to exercise that freedom.”
FOX: “Let anybody have a little smoke of marijuana. Let them do it!”
One other country in the Western Hemisphere that has radically altered its cannabis policy is Uruguay, which Fox says is “one step ahead of Mexico.” Uruguay legalized marijuana in 2013 and started selling to registered residents via pharmacies last year. “It’s not a total open market yet, it’s not this philosophy of ethics and moral behavior that I’m pushing for, the new industry, but it’s one step further than Mexico is. I think Uruguay is doing well, a solution is being implemented.”
That is foremost on Fox’s mind: Solving the crisis in Mexico. This will largely be up to who’s elected president on July 1. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, candidate of the five-year-old left-wing MORENA (National Regeneration Movement) Party, favors marijuana legalization. The other two major-party candidates—José Antonio Meade Kuribreña (from the governing PRI, the Institutional Revolutionary Party) and Ricardo Anaya Cortés (like Fox, from PAN, the center-right National Action Party)—don’t.
“If it’s a conservative government, it will take a little bit more time,” Fox says. “Or it could be a liberal government respectful of freedom of choice. It depends on the election, but sooner or later Mexico will go for the whole enchilada. I’m absolutely sure, and I am already pushing for a total legalization of all drugs. Look at the incredible problem the United States is having with opioids now. What’s wrong with a plant like marijuana? It is not evil. We have to think differently. Human beings don’t respond to prohibitions. We respond to information and what is good for our health. Governments will never stop that.”
FOX: “Human beings don’t respond to prohibitions. We respond to information and what is good for our health. Governments will never stop that.”
The interview concludes with a question about Fox’s own cannabis use. Does he smoke mota?
“No, I have not tried it, because I don’t feel like it,” Fox replies. “I have tried a lot of things, but not that one. My position is based on reason, science and humanism. That’s what I believe in. I don’t need to take the product to change my convictions. So, my beliefs are those. That’s why I’m associated to this movement.
“And I also believe most importantly in peace and harmony. Peace and harmony is maybe the highest value we human beings can have. Pursuing that is my purpose. Let anybody have a little smoke of marijuana. Let them do it! It might make him more peaceful, it might bring harmony with himself. Those veterans coming back from war affected psychologically, let then have that. Me? I have a tequila. When I’m at a conference I have a tequila before I speak. I get myself very nice and smooth. It opens my mind.”
Register for the Canna Mexico World Summit here.
This article appears in Freedom Leaf Issue 32.
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