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Mexico nervous about California's Prop. 19 vote

November 2, 2010 |  3:01 pm



Mexico, the country that supplies most of the marijuana used in the United States, is closely watching California's vote on Proposition 19, which would legalize possession of small amounts of the drug.

The government of President Felipe Calderon is worried that legalization would do nothing to stem the brutal drug cartel violence sweeping Mexico, while at the same time stoking demand. Other Mexicans, including a couple of former presidents, academics and others, favor the measure, hoping production in California would cut into the profits collected by the Mexican cartels.

Alejandro Poire, the government's security spokesman, reiterated its opposition Tuesday, reading a statement timed to coincide with the vote in California.

"Legalizing marijuana will not put an end to organized crime in Mexico and the wave of criminal violence threatening Mexicans … especially as a measure taken at a local, unilateral level," Poire said.

Calderon, in a recent interview with The Times, outlined his opposition to Prop. 19 as well. But that hasn't quieted a furious debate here in Mexico nor allayed tensions between this producing nation and that huge consumer to the north.

"Don’t be fooled. These groups [the cartels] have diversified their criminal actions to other offenses," including robbery, kidnapping and the trafficking of human beings, Poire said. "To think their harmful … violent behavior would end with legalization is simply a false premise."

-- Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City

Photo: Mexican soldiers at an army base in Tijuana burn 134 tons of marijuana seized in a record bust last month. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times