MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that the government is considering what to do about opium poppy growers affected by competition from synthetic opioids, suggesting a legalization scheme is possible.
Asked about the legalization of marijuana production, which is currently in Congress, Lopez Obrador said the question also applies to opium poppies grown illegally in some parts of Mexico to make heroin.
“As for the marijuana-opium poppy trade, a decision has been made to conduct a thorough study of those crops,” said Lopez Obrador.
The government has tried to introduce alternative crops, such as timber and orchards, to poppy-growing areas, but Lopez Obrador makes it clear that the new study goes beyond that.
He said farmers in remote mountainous communities in Mexico had lost their income as traffickers went to Asia to buy fentanyl instead of paying people to grow poppies to grow poppy gum needed for heroin processing.
“We are in the process of analyzing and thinking about what will benefit Mexico the most,” he said. “There are now unparalleled conditions for doing what is most beneficial to Mexico, our people, because the current government is completely free, it does not submit to any foreign government.”
This apparently referred to US pressure to reduce Mexican opium production, almost all of which were smuggled into the United States.
The study of the legal production of opium was circulated in the Mexican government before Lopez Obrador took office in December 2018. However, a number of factors meant that these proposals were never accepted.
The production of medical opioids needed for patients’s incurable patients, which has been proposed in the past, would require far stricter control of farmers than Mexico is likely to acquire in the Pacific coastal state of Guerrero in northern Mexico, where illicit production is currently concentrated.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration recently reported that in 2019, the production of poppy heroin in Mexico decreased. It says: “Low opium prices paid to poppy farmers in Mexico, coupled with rising fentanyl consumption in the United States, have likely led to a decline in cultivation.”
“Dealers are increasingly cutting heroin with fentanyl to increase its potency. Եւ” DTOs (drug trafficking companies) may view heroin as merely fentanyl adulterer, “the report said.
But even if the cultivation of marijuana is legalized and a solution is found for the poppy growers, Mexico will still face a crop of illicit drugs.
In February, Lopez Obrador said that experimental plots of coca’s cocaine were found in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. The plant is native to South America, and so far has grown mainly in Bolivia and Colombia.
“I want to tell the bad guys that we know they are experimenting with coca production in Guerrero,” he said. “We found some plots of coca in Atoyak,” a controversial city known for its drug-related violence and drug production.
Any legalization of the opium poppy will become another point of contact with the US authorities, which has already been undermined by Mexico’s decision to lift the immunity of foreign agents and restrict their activities in Mexico.
Mexico also heavily armed the United States to release a former Mexican defense minister arrested in Los Angeles in October on drug charges. Mexico ousted retired General Salvador Cienfuegos only after a thorough investigation of US evidence against him, and then released the full material of the case.