Mexico explores regulating opium to fight drug violence
By Gabriel Stargardter
MEXICO CITY, April 22 (Reuters) - Mexico's government has explored regulating poppy production to make pharmaceutical opiates like morphine in an effort to weaken heroin-smuggling gangs, according to two sources with knowledge of the government's thinking.
Amid a government review of drugs policy, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong asked policy experts late last year whether Mexico could win authorization from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a United Nations body, to grow and export opium poppies for painkillers.
"It's a legitimate question," said one of the sources with direct knowledge of the talks, who was not authorized to speak publicly. "States have to ask themselves questions and have to discuss their policies."
It is not clear how seriously the government is considering the regulation of poppy production and it has not yet approached the INCB directly but the discussion illustrates how concerned it is about heroin-related violence.
Mexico's interior ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
On Thursday, Pena Nieto proposed legalizing marijuana-based medicines, substantially raising the amount of pot that users can carry and freeing inmates on minor marijuana charges.
With its shift, Mexico has joined a growing group of Latin American countries openly questioning the prohibitionist policies at the heart of the war on drugs.
"The terms of the drugs debate are changing in Mexico and the rest of the world," Pena Nieto said. Continuación...