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News > Latin America

Mexico: President-Elect Refuses To Rule Out Medical Opium Sales

  • A soldier among poppy plants before a field is destroyed during a military operation in Coyuca de Catalan, Mexico, April 2017.

    A soldier among poppy plants before a field is destroyed during a military operation in Coyuca de Catalan, Mexico, April 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 July 2018

The move would be a sign of the deep changes the next government is considering over the U.S.-led 'war on drugs' approach.

Mexico's president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is open to the idea of selling opium for pharmaceutical use, a senior aide said on Wednesday.

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"Why not sell it to pharmaceutical companies?" said Olga Sanchez, a former Supreme Court judge who is the incoming president's pick to run the Interior Ministry.

She said the next president, a 64-year-old former mayor of Mexico City, supported a public consultation on the possibility of regulating opium and decriminalizing marijuana.

Sanchez said the newcomers were also exploring decriminalizing marijuana for recreational use, saying it no longer made sense for Mexican authorities to engage in a violent struggle against the drug when Canada and several U.S. states have already adopted more lenient policies.

"What are we thinking? Tell me. Killing ourselves. Really, keep on killing when... North America is decriminalizing?" she told W Radio.

Sanchez said any such move would be in parallel to rehabilitation programs and strict punishments for anyone selling drugs to children.

To legally grow and export opium poppies for painkillers, Mexico first would need authorization from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a United Nations body.

Lopez Obrador, who takes office in December, upturned Mexico's political status quo in the July 1 election with more than half the country voting for him. His coalition will have a majority in Congress, projections show, ending 89 years of rule by just two parties.

He did not take a clear stance on decriminalizing drugs before the election, but says he will try out new approaches to tackling Mexico's violence, including possible amnesty for some cartel employees.

In Mexico, the battle for control of heroin production and trafficking is held partly responsible for the country's record levels of violence, which involved nearly 30,000 murders last year.

Regulation of opium poppy farming for morphine production is a model used in Turkey and India, among other countries.

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