Mexico's Drug Policy

Mexico's Drug Policy

Mexico’s drug policy focuses on supply-side reduction. Since the 1980s, the government has given the military ever greater powers to deal with drug cartels. Calderon’s administration (2006-2012) launched a massive campaign against drug cartels that saw the homicide rate double during the period. Federal operations with large numbers of troops formed Calderon’s key strategy. This has changed recently with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador declaring the previous drug policy a failed and violent strategy. Obrador has since adopted policies that focus on decriminalisation and rehabilitation.

Nevertheless, supply side efforts remain firm, in that the penalties for drug trafficking are severe with convicted offenders expecting large fines and a jail sentence of up to 25 years. Mexico also continues to deploy security forces to stop smuggling of illicit drugs to the US across 300 ports of entry and to battle cartels.  There are shifts in the style of supply side efforts, however. For instance, with funding from the Merida Initiative initially focused on training Mexico’s counternarcotic forces and equipping them for inspection. But this has switched to a larger emphasis on police and judiciary reforms, economic development and social programs.


Mexico’s heavy militarised approach has had some success in eliminating drug cartels, with a reported 82 out of 122 major organised crime figures (Guzman, leader of the Juarez Cartel) imprisoned or killed between 2012 and 2014. However, since the drug war in 2006, there have been some 235,000 people murdered and over 37,000 having been officially identified as disappeared.

Supply side strategies also remain ineffective in the face of strong profit incentives. Mexico has attempted to address the prevalence of poppy farming not only by criminalising it, but by subsidizing the production of corn to compensate for the loss of profit for farmers switching from poppy production.

In spite of these efforts, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Mexico remains one of the largest suppliers of heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl. Farmers continue to grow this crop because there is insufficient land to grow large quantities of other crops (corns, tomatoes) to make a profit.


Photo by Jeremy Lwanga on Unsplash

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