Sacto 9-1-1
April 15, 2011
California legalizing pot won't stop drug cartels, ex-AG in Mexico says

A former Mexican attorney general from Baja California said today that legalization of marijuana in California would curb pot-related violence in Mexico but would do little to stop the overall killings and corruption of Mexican drug cartels.

Antonio Martinez, who served as attorney general for Northern Baja California from 2001 to 2007, told a McGeorge School of Law symposium on marijuana and legal issues, that sanctioning marijuana use in California would force cartel to increase other forms of drug trafficking.

"They still will be in the black market," Martinez said of Mexican drug networks. "And those individuals will shift into other sectors of organized crime. They will kidnap. They will steal ... They will go into cocaine, firearms and other things. For that merchandise (marijuana), violence will go down. But that doesn't mean it will stop."

Yet Martinez said Mexico should follow suit and legalize marijuana if California decides to make the drug legal for recreational use. California voters defeated the Proposition marijuana legalization measure last year, but a similar measure is expected to be on the ballot in 2012.

Martinez, who is now president of an international trade and security firm, said he has moved to the U.S. for his personal safety since taking on Mexican drug networks as a prosecutor. He credits Mexican authorities with arresting several major drug kingpins, but said that has only fractured drug cartels, leading to more violence for control of illicit drug markets.

More than 30,000 people have died in Mexico since December, 2006 when President Felipe Calderon began waging a campaign against major drug networks in his country.

In his presentation, Martinez called for improved efforts in the United States to stem the spread of weapons purchased north of the border and smuggled into Mexico.

-By Peter Hecht
phecht@sacbee.com

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