Mexico's president-elect does not rule out medical opium sales: aide

Mexico City:  Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador may consider the idea of selling opium for pharmaceutical use, a senior aide said on Wednesday, a sign of the deep changes the next government is considering in the war on drugs.

"Why not sell it to pharmaceutical companies?" said Olga Sanchez, a former Supreme Court judge who is the incoming president's pick to run the Interior Ministry.

She said Obrador, a 64-year-old former mayor of Mexico City, supported a public consultation on the possibility of regulating opium and decriminalising marijuana.

Obrador did not take a clear stance on decriminalising drugs before Sunday's election, but said he would try out new approaches to tackling Mexico's violence, including possible amnesty for some cartel employees.

The United States has been engulfed by an epidemic of opioid addiction in recent years that has led to tens of thousands of overdose deaths. The Drug Enforcement Administration says 93 per cent of the heroin on US streets is produced in Mexico.

In Mexico, the battle for control of heroin production and trafficking is held partly responsible for the country's record violence, which led to nearly 30,000 murders last year.

Regulation of opium poppy farming for morphine production is a model used in Turkey and India, among other countries, but some experts believe changes in the market thanks to the rise of synthetic opiates make it hard to achieve.

To legally grow and export opium poppies for painkillers, Mexico first would need authorisation from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a United Nations body.

Obrador takes office in December. The current government also explored regulating poppy production to make pharmaceutical opiates.

Obrador upturned Mexico's political status quo in Sunday's election with more than half the country voting for him, and his coalition will have a majority in Congress, projections show, ending 89 years of rule by just two parties.

Sanchez said the newcomers were also exploring decriminalising marijuana for recreational use, saying it no longer made sense for Mexican authorities to engage in a violent struggle against the drug when Canada and several US states had adopted more lenient policies.

"What are we thinking? Tell me. Killing ourselves. Really, keep on killing when … North America is decriminalising?" she told W Radio.

Sanchez said any such move would be in parallel to rehabilitation programs and strict punishments for anyone who sold drugs to children.


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