MEXICO CITY -- A group of Latin American leaders declared Monday that votes by two U.S. states to legalize marijuana have important implications for efforts to quash drug smuggling, offering the first government reaction from a region increasingly frustrated with the U.S.-backed war on drugs.
The declaration by the leaders of Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica did not explicitly say they were considering weakening their governments' efforts against marijuana smuggling, but it strongly implied the votes last week in Colorado and Washington would make enforcement of marijuana bans more difficult.
The four called for the Organization of American States to study the impact of the Colorado and Washington votes and said the United Nations' General Assembly should hold a special session on the prohibition of drugs by 2015 at the latest.
Last week, an adviser to Mexico's president-elect, who takes office Dec. 1, questioned how the country will enforce a ban on growing and smuggling a drug that is now legal under some U.S. state laws. The Obama administration has yet to make clear how strongly it will enforce a federal ban on marijuana that is not affected by the Colorado and Washington votes.
"It has become necessary to analyze in depth the implications for public policy and health in our nations emerging from the state and local moves to allow the legal production, consumption and distribution of marijuana in some countries of our continent," Mexican President Felipe Calderon said after a meeting with Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize.
Marijuana legalization by U.S. states is "a paradigm change on the part of those entities in respect to the current international system," Calderon said.
Mexico has seen tens of thousands killed over the last six years during a militarized government campaign against drug cartels.
President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto has promised to shift Mexico's focus to preventing violence against ordinary citizens, although he says he intends to keep battling cartels and is opposed to drug legalization. Guatemala's president has advocated the international legalization of drugs.
The call by the four presidents was welcomed by marijuana activists in the U.S. Forcing international review of drug policies was a stated goal of the campaigns for legalization in Colorado and Washington.
"Marijuana prohibition in this country has been detrimental -- but it's been absolutely catastrophic to our southern neighbors," said Dan Riffle, an analyst and lobbying for the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that largely financed the two campaigns.