EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Without substantial changes to provide for prevention and treatment, legalizing marijuana in Mexico will lead to more young people becoming addicted to drugs and joining criminal gangs.
So says a top lawman in the border state of Chihuahua, where addiction rates and drug-related homicides are on the rise.
“It will have a negative impact. It will bring us more addiction problems than we already have in Juarez. […] We believe the number of addicts in the country will double,” said Deputy Attorney General Jorge Nava.
The Mexican Senate in November approved a bill legalizing possession of up to 28 grams (one ounce) of marijuana, growing up to six plants a year and allowing adults to consume the drug in private homes. The Chamber of Deputies is expected to discuss and pass the bill in February.
But Nava said the country lacks the medical infrastructure to treat those who are addicted to marijuana and other drugs right now.
“Studies have been done to establish the approximate number of addicts in Juarez. It’s an impressive number – more than 100,000. There are no places where these people can (get treatment),” he said.
Nava also worries that consuming marijuana leads young people to try more harmful and addictive substances sold by violent drug gangs. Those drugs include cocaine and crystal meth, which is widely trafficked on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I believe it will be the gateway for more people – more than those we already have – to get involved at a very young age in circles of addiction and crime,” he said.
Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, last year recorded 1,497 homicides, most of them drug related. So far in 2020, more than 1,610 people have been murdered. Just this weekend, 15 people were shot or stabbed to death.
U.S. experts previously told Border Report it’s too early to gauge the impact of legalization of marijuana on Mexico’s crime rate. Some say they expect some crime to go down as legalization removes the need for people to seek shady drug dealers.