Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday said a “decision has been made” to thoroughly study “commercializing” opium poppies as the industry faces increased competition from synthetic opioids, the Associated Press reports.
López Obrador’s comments come as lawmakers consider a broad cannabis legalization bill required by a 2018 Supreme Court decision that found prohibition to be unconstitutional.
The government has tried introducing alternative crops, such as timber and fruit orchids, to traditional poppy-cultivating areas but farmers in remote mountain communities are losing income as traffickers switch to buying fentanyl from Asia rather than paying farmers to grow and harvest poppies used to process heroin.
“We are in the stage of analysis and reflection about what will most benefit Mexico. There are now unparalleled conditions to do what most benefits Mexico and our people, because the current government is completely free, it is not subordinated to any foreign government.” – President López Obrador via the AP
Legal opium production policies have been considered since the president took office in 2018 but have never been adopted, the report says.
In a recent report, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said that poppy and heroin production in Mexico declined in 2019, attributing it to “low opium prices paid to poppy farmers … coupled with an increase in fentanyl use in the United States.”
Poppy legalization would likely cause a row with U.S. authorities as most of Mexico’s opium is smuggled into its northern neighbor.
The report notes that even if cannabis and poppies were legalized in Mexico, the country still faces an expansion of illicit drug production as experimental plots of coca leaves – used in the production of cocaine – were discovered in the nation last month.
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