Is prohibition worth it?

The cost could include the destruction of Mexico’s democracy

Gustavo Sánchez was a 27-year-old schoolteacher when he volunteered to become mayor of Tancitaro, Mexico, after the town’s mayor and city council resigned en masse last December, saying they were threatened by drug traffickers. According to a report, Sánchez “was sure he could be a good mayor because he did not have enemies in the region nor had he ever offended anyone.”

On Sept. 27, his body and that of an aide, Rafael Equihua, were found by the side of a road. They had been stoned to death.

At least 11 mayors have been killed in Mexico this year, and more than 100 mayors have been threatened, kidnapped, subjected to extortion or shot at. In the last few years, nearly 25,000 people have died as a result of the drug-cartel violence. That violence is threatening the country’s very stability.

Some say it’s all because of America’s insatiable appetite for illicit drugs, and that’s true up to a point. But the drugs have little intrinsic financial value; they’re expensive mostly because they are illegal. If they weren’t illegal, there wouldn’t be much profit in selling them, and the cartels would wither and die.

This is the fundamental truth about the illicit-drug trade that most politicians and law-enforcement officials are unwilling to acknowledge. But the disaster that is taking place in Mexico is a threat not only to that country, but also to the United States. At some point we must ask whether our determination to tell people what they cannot put in their own bodies is worth the destruction of a nation’s democracy.