By Michael R. Blood
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former Mexico President Vicente Fox, who calls himself a soldier in the global campaign to legalize marijuana, is joining the board of directors of venerable cannabis publication High Times to advance his agenda.
Speaking with The Associated Press about his views on cannabis and his new appointment, Fox said he foresees a day when a robust legal marketplace will produce new jobs and medicines while sharply reducing cartel violence in his home country.
He also sees pot being part of the North American Free Trade Agreement among Mexico, Canada and the U.S., where some 30 states are embracing legalized marijuana in some form.
Fox’s appointment to the magazine’s board points to the growing acceptance of the once-scorned industry. Earlier this year, former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, reversed his long-held position against legalization and became an adviser to a cannabis company.
Why legal cannabis?
Reason one, Fox says, is freedom, “which is maybe the highest value that human beings have.”
“I don’t think that governments will ever have the capacity to impose behaviors, to impose conduct, to human beings. At the very end, prohibitions don’t work. What works is your own free decision.”
Then, it’s history. “The war on drugs has been a total failure” since the days of former President Richard Nixon, Fox concludes.
Fox also cites the experience in Mexico, where tens of thousands of killings have been attributed to drug violence.
The trend toward legalization “is moving out of a crime activity, a criminal activity that causes death and blood on the streets, into a business, an industry, that is proving every day that it is sustainable,” Fox says. “To me, marijuana, cannabis, it’s only the first steps. At the very end, these principles that I spoke about apply to all drugs.”
What do you hope to achieve at High Times?
“Well, I am a soldier, in the sense of being an activist, working for this new future, working to break the paradigm,” he says. “In short, joining together those who believe in this future.”
The lesson of Mexico
Mexico has legalized medicinal marijuana, but Fox says regulations are needed to put the change into effect. With legalization spreading in the U.S., and Canada expected to broadly legalize cannabis later this year, Fox is eager to see Mexico follow suit.
“We have to come up to where the United States is,” he says. “This is happening in several key states throughout the union, and also like other world nations are doing, like Holland, like Portugal, Uruguay, so Mexico has to be updated on this public policy.”
If Mexico takes the next step to full legalization “one of the things that I’m absolutely convinced that will happen in Mexico is that we’ll take away half of the money that cartels get from selling drugs in the United States, and that half of the money will reduce the amount of guns and ammunition bought by the cartels.”
Could marijuana become part of the North American Free Trade Amendment?
Yes, Fox says. Once it’s a legal industry and a legal farming product, “it should form part of NAFTA,” Fox says. “It’s another product that can enhance our private sector, corporations, farmers, retailers … so it should happen. We should promote it.”
How can the U.S. reconcile the conflict between federal law, which sees pot as illegal, and state laws that permit use?
The only fix, Fox says, is to change policy at the federal level. However, “I’m not appealing to … (President Donald) Trump because he never understands anything,” Fox says.
Fox believes members of Congress should visit states where marijuana has been legalized.
“Go around California, visit Washington state, visit Colorado. Look at the successful stories … Look at the amount of taxes that are being collected, look at the peaceful and harmonious way this new industry is being grown.”
“We need … Congress to pay attention to this.” Fox says.
The black market continues to thrive in California despite legalization. What can be done?
“The thing is, those criminals that used to have control of this industry in the United States are still there,” Fox says.
“This is one more reason why in the long term I think that all drugs should be legalized. … But we must educate people. We must educate consumers. We must prevent the wrong things from happening.”
Michael R. Blood is a member of AP’s marijuana beat team. Follow him on Twitter.