Note: this is a guest post by Zara Snapp, international liaison for SSDP – Students for Sensible Drug Policy, our American sister organization. You can learn more about Zara by reading her bio or following her on Twitter (@zarasnapp).

Two weeks ago in Mexico City, the organization Mexico United Against Delinquency (MUCD in Spanish) held a large forum on drugs and the need for a shift in drug policy. Several factors made this forum different from others held in the past.
In the first place, MUCD is a primarily conservative organization, started by high-class folks who were beginning to feel the effects of both delinquency and the increased violence related to drug trafficking. They began to demand greater accountability for crimes and have been working towards lowering the high impunity rate in Mexico (currently at 98%). It is interesting that the issue of drug legalization has begun to creep into the discussion of businessmen and entrepreneurs. Traditionally, the public discourse regarding legalization has been kept within academia and activism. When you looked around the Forum, there was a mix of participants, activists, high-class “señoras,” academics and businessmen. In socioeconomic terms, it might have been the most diverse conferences I have ever attended.

The second factor that made this conference stand out was the curious inquiry into different international models—with a focus on Canada. While the conference also featured Mexican academics, politicians, activists and practitioners, several of the speakers were either Canadian or mentioned the Canadian drug policy model as one that could be duplicated. Participants were impressed with the story of Insite, the supervised injection site in Vancouver, and how it was politically possible through actions by practitioners such as Donald MacPherson (Note: Donald sits on our CSSDP Board of Directors!) While injection drug use is not the primary policy concern in Mexico, harm reduction strategies are entering the general discussion and folks are working to deal with both the increasing consumption and the hugely increasing transit of narcotics to the north. During the conference, we also heard from a former Vancouver police officer who shared that he had not been trained to instill fear, but rather to help people. This is in sharp contrast to the Mexican context where most folks are afraid of cops, who are seen as extremely corrupt.

Looking North – beyond the United States, to Canada – is something that is happening more and more in Mexican drug policy circles. There is a growing realization that while the United States may not act on these policies, we can begin to develop a regional strategy: collaborating across Latin America and Canada will yield greater results than just complaining about the regressive policies of the United States. This weekend, CSSDP will be hosting its 5th annual conference in Calgary. For those of you who want to learn from the Canadian model, both the accomplishments and the challenges, but can’t make it all the way up north (like me) – you can watch the conference through livestream right here! Good luck, enjoy the conference and get ready for action afterwards! Abrazos from Mexico!