Mexican leader hints he could allow changes to laws prohibiting marijuana

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MEXICO CITY -- Mexico and the United States cannot pursue diverging policies on marijuana legalization, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was quoted as saying Sunday, hinting he may be open to following the lead taken by some U.S. states in changing drug laws.

Political pressure has grown in Mexico to take a more liberal stance on marijuana since Washington and Colorado decided to legalize possession and sale of the drug for recreational use in 2012.

Other U.S. states plan votes soon.

Marijuana, along with contraband such as cocaine and crystal meth, has been a major source of income for violent drug cartels responsible for thousands of deaths in Mexico in recent years.

Proponents of overhaul say legalizing marijuana would both reduce the gangs' economic power and help generate more tax revenue.

Mr. Pena Nieto said he is in favor of debating the issue despite personal misgivings about legalizing cannabis, and lawmakers say Mexico cannot be out of step forever with the United States, the principal buyer of illicit drugs that cross the border.

In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais, Mr. Pena Nieto said legalization of marijuana was a "growing phenomenon" and that the policies followed in the past 30 to 40 years had only led to more consumption and more production of drugs.

"Therefore it's a failed policy," he told the newspaper.

"It needs to be reviewed. I repeat, I'm not in favor of legalization, this is a personal conviction. But we can't continue on this road of inconsistency between the legalization we've had in some places, particularly in the most important consumer market, the United States, and in Mexico where we continue to criminalize production of marijuana," he added.

His comments offered encouragement to supporters of change in Mexico, where polls have for years shown a majority of the population opposes outright legalization of marijuana.

Still, an April survey published by the public opinion unit of the lower house of Congress showed 73 percent of Mexicans backed legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.



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