Only One Out of Three Mexicans Wants to Legalize Weed

In spite of cartel violence most Mexicans prefer drug prohibition.

ByABC News
July 24, 2013, 7:28 PM

July 25, 2013— -- The war on drugs has killed at least 60,000 people in Mexico over the past six years.

But most people in this country still don't want marijuana to be legalized, according to a poll released this week.

The poll was conducted by the De la Riva Group, a market research firm based in Mexico City. For this survey, they interviewed 800 people from all over the country and only 32 percent of them said that marijuana should be legalized.

Researchers think that such lukewarm support for legalization could be rooted in two beliefs that are prevalent among Mexico's population. One is that people think that the legalization of marijuana would increase consumption. The other is that it would lead to greater levels of drug-related violence. In fact, 52 percent of interviewees said that legalization would make violence worse.

Such perceptions completely contradict what many drug war experts say about marijuana legalization.

Sanho Tree, the director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies argues that prohibition gives substances like marijuana an "astronomical price support," that encourages criminal groups to fight over smuggling routes.

Drug policy analysts in Mexico also argue that marijuana legalization would decrease violence by allowing law enforcement officers to spend less time on drug seizures and dedicate more resources to investigating violent crimes like kidnappings and homicides.

Still, there are several surveys out there that suggest that politicians who back legalization will have a tough time convincing voters that this is a good idea.

In Uruguay for example, President Jose Mujica, delayed a congressional vote on a marijuana legalization law after a local poll found that 64 percent of that country's citizens opposed the initiative.

A survey that was conducted in several Latin American countries back in 2010 by IPSOS, a polling firm, found that in Chile and Argentina just 30 percent of people agree with legalizing weed. The same poll was conducted in Colombia, a country that has been hit hard by drug violence. Only 13 percent of respondents in that nation said that marijuana should be legalized.

The poll conducted in Mexico by De la Riva, found that support for legalization was higher among people ages 18 to 29, than any other age group. Support for legalization was also significantly higher among people from middle class backgrounds.

In the U.S. support for marijuana legalization also tends to be greater among younger generations. Polls conducted earlier this year, by the Pew Research Center and Gallup, say that more than 50 percent of the overall population agrees with legalizing weed.