With the nation in the throws of a violent drug war, over 200 people gathered in a central Mexico City park Sunday to smoke marijuana and demand it be legalized, an AFP reporter witnessed.
The protestors withstood drizzling rain to hang out on the popular tourist drag of the Alameda to smoke the herb, which remains illegal in Mexico, although the country is among a handful of Latin American nations that allow for the possession of a small "personal dose" of the drug.
Many participants smoked out of pipes decorated with skulls, which were said to allude to traditional pre-Hispanic cultures, as music was played and a petition was circulated to call for legalization.
Support for legalizing such so-called "soft drugs" in Mexico has grown, especially among left wing parties as a means to curb drug gang-related violence that has left some 28,000 people dead in the last four years.
Hector Aguilar Camín, editor of the Mexican magazineNexos, and Jorge G. Castaneda, a former Mexican foreign minister and current lecturer at NYU, write in a Washington Post column that Mexican drug gangs could see their revenue drop 60 percent if marijuana was no longer a contraband item.
"As their immense profits shrank, the drug kingpins would be deprived of the almost unlimited money they now use to fund recruitment, arms purchases and bribes," they write.
Camin and Castaneda's arguments join those of the former Republican governor of New Mexico, Gary E. Johnson, who wrote at the FireDogLake blog Friday that marijuana decriminalization is "probably the only practical way to weaken the drug cartels."
"America’s policy for almost 70 years has been to keep marijuana—arguably no more harmful than alcohol and used by 15 million Americans every month—confined to the illicit market, meaning we’ve given criminals a virtual monopoly on something that US researcher Jon Gettman estimates is a $36 billion a year industry, greater than corn and wheat combined," Johnson wrote.
Former president Vicente Fox (2000-2006), who led the conservative party of current President Felipe Calderon, has repeatedly voiced his own support for such a move.
With AFP and additional reporting by Daniel Tencer.