Why It is Hard to Legalize Opium

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

Farmers in the states of Guerrero, Sinaloa and Nayarit, who depend on the growing of opium to make a living, wish to see opium legalized in Mexico so that they can keep their crops as well as their way of life being opium growers. There is no question that some legislators have considered trying to make opium legal so that thousands of families who grow opium in southwestern Mexico can do so. Mexico is the second largest producer of opium after Afghanistan, and most of the opium that is grown in this part of Mexico goes to the United States.

There are two major problems with making opium legal. First, it is not regulated. Since it is currently illegal in Mexico, there are no regulations for the farmers to follow on how much opium they can grow, where and who they can sell it to, and how to keep opium legal by processing it into legal medications rather than illicit drugs. The second and more pressing problem is that the drug cartels buy the opium to turn it into illicit drugs that they then smuggle into the United States. Any farmer who refuses to sell his crop to the cartels is threatened and could have themselves and their whole families killed. On the other hand, the Mexican army and police must by law destroy any and all opium crops wherever they are found.

Given these circumstances, making opium legal and then putting it under strict government supervision is easier said than done. Interestingly enough, opium is grown legally in Australia, France and Great Britain to be solely processed into medications for the big pharmaceutical companies. But these legal farms are strictly supervised and guarded to make sure that none of the opium is ever processed illegally. Annual reports on the growth and sale of opium is strictly regulated in these countries, and opium growing is limited. This is why opium is illegal in Afghanistan—there is no way that the Afghan government can monitor all the opium grown, and cannot stop the Taliban from using it, making it into illegal drugs, and using it to finance their war.

The same thing that holds true in Afghanistan holds true in Mexico. Although the Mexican government has better control over the country than does the Afghan government, it still cannot stop what the cartels are doing. Until the cartels are either destroyed or their operations are greatly reduced, it is ill-advised to legalize opium in Mexico.

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