Mexico debates legalizing opium poppy for medicine

MEXICO CITY: Fed up with drug-related violence, a growing number of Mexican politicians see one potential cure: legalizing the cultivation of opium poppies for the production of medicine.
The debate has emerged in recent weeks after President Enrique Pena Nieto proposed legislation in April to loosen marijuana laws by legalizing medical cannabis and easing restrictions on its recreational use.
Since then, governors and congressional lawmakers have voiced their support for regulating opium poppies, which are often grown by farmers in poor areas of the country and sold to cartels as the raw material for heroin.

The idea was launched by Hector Astudillo, governor of the southern state of Guerrero, which has the country’s highest murder rate amid turf wars among drug cartels battling for control of the mountains where US-bound heroin is born.

Astudillo, whose state is the biggest producer of opium poppies, proposed a pilot program for the crop’s cultivation for medical uses.

Graco Ramirez, governor of the neighboring crime-plagued state of Morelos, which is a transit route for the drug, voiced his support.

“In (the northwestern state of) Sinaloa and Guerrero, growing opium poppies is a fact of life and we must take it away from the criminals and give it to health,” Ramirez said. – AFP