San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Voters Take Breath Out of Marijuana Legalization in California

A proposal to legalize marijuana in California was soundly defeated on Tuesday.

Proposition 19, which would have legalized the growing, use and distribution of marijuana, was turned down by a wide margin as voters expressed concern to pollsters about the risk of employees turning up to work high and projected legal chaos.

Many experts expected that the legalization of marijuana in California would make waves in Latin America because it could affect the  value of illegal drugs smuggled north. Because marijuana would be legal, they said, much of the black market, and the violence and crime that go with it, would be eliminated.   

However, during a summit in Colombia last week, many Central and South American presidents expressed concern for the measure as they said it could undermine their fight against drug trafficking.

“It is confusing to our people when consumer countries promote initiatives such as the California referendum to legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana, as we lose lives and invest resources in the fight against drug trafficking,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the summit. “If we don’t act together on this point, if all we do is send our citizens to prison while in other areas, we legalize the market, we need to ask ourselves: isn’t it time to revise the global strategy in confronting drugs?”

Costa Rica’s Public Security Minister José María Tijerino said on Tuesday morning that even if voters legalized marijuana in California, it wouldn’t be seconded in Costa Rica.

“Marijuana is the gateway drug in the consumption of other drugs,” he said. “To legalize it would be to improve access to more dangerous drugs.”

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