Felipe Calderón, Mexico’s outgoing president, said ending the drug trade is “impossible,” and it's up to the United States to either reduce its levels of drug use or use "market mechanisms" to reduce the flow of drug money to Mexico.
"[E]ither the United States and its society, its government and its congress decide to drastically reduce their consumption of drugs, or if they are not going to reduce it they at least have the moral responsibility to reduce the flow of money towards Mexico, which goes into the hands of criminals," Calderon said in an interview with the Economist.
In appearances at the United Nations and in Washington during the fall, Calderon similarly hinted that "it’s time to explore different alternatives when it comes to reducing consumption.” The Washington Post reported at the time:
While the president did not spell out what he had in mind, he mentioned “regulatory and market alternatives” — by which he likely means some form of legalization.
Calderon intensified the Mexican government's battle against the country's drug cartels throughout this presidency, but drug-related homicides only escalated when he was in office. Most estimates put the death toll between 2006 and 2011 at somewhere between 45,000 and 60,000.
Since 1998, global consumption of both cannabis and cocaine has risen by about 50 percent, according to the UNODC’s figures.
This month, some states did take steps to find "market alternatives" for marijuana consumption. Two ballot measures legalized the recreational use of cannabis in Colorado and Washington.
However, experts and studies noted that while legalization in two U.S. states might put a dent in cartels' revenues, it probably won’t destroy them entirely because marijuana use in individual states makes up such a small percentage of cartels' profits.
In response to the ballot measures, Calderon said the legalization of marijuana in two states limits the United States's “moral authority” to ask other nations to combat or restrict illegal drug trafficking.
In the Economist interview, Calderon did not, however, seem morally opposed to drug use on principle:
"If they want to take all the drugs they want, as far as I’m concerned let them take them. What I do not accept is that they continue passing their money to the hands of killers."