Mexico's new narcotics laws go into effect
Possession of small amounts is no longer a crime
By DUDLEY ALTHAUS
HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Aug. 21, 2009, 10:43PM


MEXICO CITY — A Texas oil executive says his small company was one of several that bought millions of dollars worth of stolen Mexican petroleum and then sold it to larger U.S. companies, including chemical giant BASF.

Houston-based Trammo Petroleum President Donald Schroeder, the first to be convicted as part of a cross-border investigation, testified that he was contacted by two fuel company representatives who “told me they had some Mexican condensate that they would like to sell,” according to U.S. federal court transcripts obtained Friday.

Schroeder testified that his contact at Continental Fuels Inc. was Josh Crescenzi, who worked for the 2004 re-election campaign of President George W. Bush and for the Republican National Party in 2004 and 2006.

Schroeder and his attorneys have declined to comment, and Crescenzi could not be reached.

BASF spokesman Daniel Pepitone says the company is cooperating with authorities.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

MEXICO CITY — Party on, amigos.

Embroiled in a bloody war with its narcotics smuggling syndicates, Mexico has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

The now-permitted quantities equal several marijuana joints, a few lines of cocaine and much smaller doses of the other drugs.

Having greater amounts, selling them, or partaking in public remain illegal. Those caught the first few times with smaller quantities will be encouraged to seek treatment. Repeat offenders will be forced into rehabilitation.

Mexican officials say the move, coupled with new laws to aid enforcement against small-time narcotics peddlers, will free up resources to target major traffickers.

“With this reform we will make the combined capability of enforcement against this crime a legal and operational reality,” Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora told a conference of state prosecutors.

The laws that took effect Thursday define narcotics possessed for personal consumption as 5 grams of marijuana, half a gram of cocaine, 40 milligrams of meth and 50 milligrams of heroin.

But the laws also make the possession and marketing of larger quantities — more than 11 pounds of marijuana, for instance — a federal offense. Small-time drug peddling remains a state offense.

The prosecution of small-time users has fed corruption among local police who shake them down and clogged Mexico's prisons.

Mexicans' use of marijuana and cocaine has rocketed in recent years as traffickers actively seek domestic customers. Heroin and methamphetamine addiction has become a serious problem in some urban areas.

Mexico joins Portugal as only the second country in the world to legalize personal amounts of a wide range of narcotics, according to Allen St. Pierre, executive director of Norml, a group lobbying to decriminalize marijuana in the United States.

Thirteen American states, with a combined population of 115 million people, have now decriminalized possession of personal quantities of marijuana, St. Pierre said. Decriminalizing cocaine and other narcotics is not being pushed by anyone, he said.

In Texas, the possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana remains a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Acknowledging that many Americans “think it's not all that serious,” U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlekowski told reporters during a July visit here that federal decriminalization of marijuana remains “a non-issue.”

dudley.althaus@chron.com