U.S. Marijuana Laws Ricochet Through Latin America

President Obama has yet to deliver a clear response to the November decision by Colorado and Washington to legalize recreational marijuana use — asked whether the government would enforce federal laws that override the verdict of those states’ referendums, he answered simply that he has “bigger fish to fry.”

But leaders from across Latin America responded within days of the Colorado and Washington vote, demanding a review of drug-war policies that have mired the region in violence. Latin American decisionmakers are now openly questioning why they should continue to sacrifice police and soldiers to enforce drug laws when legal markets for marijuana now exist in the U.S.

“Everyone is asking, What sense does it make to keep up such an intense confrontation, which has cost Mexico so much, by trying to keep this substance from going to a country where it’s already regulated and permitted?” says Fernando Belaunzarán, a Congressman from Mexico’s opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party who introduced a marijuana-legalization measure in the legislature a week after the U.S. elections. The measure, Belaunzarán tells TIME, is modeled on the Washington State law and would put the federal government in charge of marijuana production, regulation and sales. The Congressman says he expects the lower house to convene public hearings on marijuana legalization by May 2013.

– Read the entire article at TIME Magazine.