Vicente Fox: End the Drug War Now

FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2012 file photo, marijuana is weighed and packaged for sale at the Northwest Patient Resource Center
FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2012 file photo, marijuana is weighed and packaged for sale at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle. Pot, at least certain amounts of it, will soon be legal under state law in Washington and Colorado. Now, officials in both states are trying to figure out how to keep doped drivers off the road. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

It would be one thing if our closest neighbor was upset about us not mowing our lawn, but when it comes to Mexico, our southern friends have had it with our failed drug war and they want us to do something about it.

But like a good neighbor that doesn't want to stir things up, since they have to live next door to us, blunt criticism comes from their elder past leaders who don't have to live in a world of political niceties.

"This situation of being in between has brought in war here in Mexico, that we are, that I don't understand why did we assume this war. That war should be done only in the United States," says ex-President Vicente Fox about the position Mexico has had to endure -- and he's had it with not only us, but also our stale government's solutions.

With our unworkable prohibition stance, it's a troubling experience for the decades of generations caught between the cheap supply in southern countries and high paying consumption in the United States.

And while U.S. politicians debate the issue then go back to their safe, cushy existences at home, people in Mexico are being slaughtered. "It's extremely bad, it's extremely violent, it's extremely costly, it's extremely harmful, and more than anything it goes right against the hope of youth in Mexico," says Fox.

If crushing the hope of the youth of Mexico isn't enough, the money spent trying to combat the violence and stem the flow of drugs is crippling the Mexican economy, ensuring that those hopeless youths will also be saddled with an incredible amount of debt and bleak prospects when it comes to bringing their country back to life. "In the case of Mexico the budget is very limited," President Fox tells us, "so unfortunately every cent, every dollar that has been increased in this useless with no results war, is against the budgetary education of the project for promoting jobs or else. So, it's a war, but it's taking us nowhere, it's a war, but is totally useless, a total failure, like the war convoked by the United States in the government of President Nixon. 40 years has gone by, and entire war is also a total absolute failure."

Many in Mexico feel, and with good reason, that while most of the blame for prohibition violence belongs to the U.S. government and their policies, it's innocent people in Mexico who are made to pay the price. This is simply not fair, says President Fox. "This game is not even. Big change has to come about. But legalization becomes a strategic, social, positive and a real solution to the problem."

The U.S. government is not a fan of "big change" and usually has to be led kicking and screaming down the path of "incremental change." This is what happened last week with the recreational legalization victories for cannabis in Colorado and Washington. But how long can the people of Mexico continue to endure unprecedented levels of violence? Many south of the border simply will not survive our incremental changes.

But it doesn't have to be this way. "[The] President, [and the] U.S. government is way behind its public opinion," Mexico's former President points out. "And the legal public opinion, because of the referendum in California, 44 percent of Californians now accept, and are for legalizing for the use of marijuana. At national level, the last Gallup poll shows that 50 percent of public opinion, 50 percent of U.S. citizens agree to [marijuana being] legalized. So, the only one who sustains the prohibition, the criminalization, and the penalization of drug control is U.S. government, and it's totally incapable of enforcing the law.

"You have in the United States personalities like President Clinton," President Fox continued, "like President Obama, who also tried a drug once; if even it's once, it's a crime. Personalities, the Einstein of the 21st century, Steve Jobs, who in his book confessed that he used drugs for a period of ten years, so how come the nation that sustains, the government that insists in prohibition and criminalization is not capable of reducing consumption, and holding the drug on the border, and eliminated the cartels that openly operate in that nation?"

A good question, and one that the politicians who support prohibition in The United States cannot give an honest answer to. That's because the truth is that we know our policies won't reduce drug supply and consumption and our officials don't want people to stop using drugs. If everyone stopped using drugs then the drug war would not be profitable and there would no longer be a point.

And countries like Mexico can talk until they are blue in the face about legalization, but the sad reality is that The United States forces prohibition on many countries in exchange for monetary aid and other considerations. "Unfortunately we, very few remaining nations, that are still hold a total prohibition to the consumption of drugs, that is led by USA and just a few other nations. The majority of nations, including Mexico, we do not penalize consumption. In Mexico, in Portugal, in Spain, in most of Europe, using drugs, consuming drugs, it's not a crime, it's a crime to sell to distribute and to produce. So, the U.S. government holds the past. And it does not listen [to the] the voice of its own history."

In this way, Fox continues, " solve the problem of violence, and then you remain only with a health problem. This is what happened in Portugal, in Holland, and other nations, the Netherlands that has legalized the use of drugs.

"Prohibition [doesn't] work, let's move ahead, away from the paradigm, from the dogma. And let's put our feet to the ground. U.S. public opinion has already done that. I don't know why U.S. government is so narrow on this issue."

But is there any hope of change from newly reelected President Obama? Will he attempt the legalization path?

"I don't think he would even try. I don't know why this dogma sustain by U.S. government, and the Republicans say [the] same, it's a dogma for them. And prohibition don't work. The prohibition of alcohol didn't work."

"It's clear that marijuana harm is much less than cigarettes harm. It kills much more people smoking cigarettes, than smoking marijuana. It's not so harmful to your health. Now, this product you're mentioning yet, but that's consequence of using marijuana, and yes, you're losing kids the opportunity to be in school because the government sustain at this prohibition. I want to appeal to parents, fathers and mothers, to school teachers, to school deans and directors, it's our responsibility, of us teachers, of parents, to educate their kids on how harmful drugs are, and why they should not use them. But in the very end according to the founding fathers of the United States, government does not have the right to interfere in our moral, in our ethics, in our conscious."

"We need the minds in a new paradigm," Fox says, "without a prohibition, [where we] see that it is not difficult to move on."

Can the U.S move on? Can we break from the ways of the past and seek a new path, a path to less violence? Will those who profit from prohibition be defeated and common sense and freedom restored to "the land of the free?"

Will we continue to doom thousands of Mexicans to die every year in a drug war that shouldn't even be fought?

As a man who cares deeply about the people of his homeland, former Mexican President Vicente Fox certainly hopes that officials in The United States turn down a different path, and that they do it soon.