Local 2 investigates a change in Mexico that may affect you and your family’s next vacation. Last year, Mexico quietly changed its drug possession laws. Anyone caught with small amounts of drugs will no longer face criminal charges.
Since Spring Break is right around the corner, Local 2 wanted to know what you or your kids will be facing when heading south of the border.
Hypnotically blue water laps against pure white sand — a haven for snorkelers and sunbathers alike. Cancun, Mexico, is one of the most popular vacation spots in the world. Once the sun sets, the streets explode with a mix of music, liquor and crowds. An array of smiling faces, dancers and whimsical characters entice tourists to join the party.
Local 2 Investigates took its hidden cameras to Cancun’s hotel zone, mingling with the crowds and testing whether Mexico’s new drug laws would have any affect on tourists.
As we walked along the main drag, we were quickly approached by a cab driver named Martin.
“Tell me, I could get everything,” said Martin.
Without hesitating, he not only offered us prostitutes, he followed up by trying to sell us drugs that would be illegal to possess in the United States.
“If you want to make your party, you could get everything. You know, say everything is a weed or blow,” said Martin.
Martin wasn’t concerned at all about offering to sell us marijuana and cocaine, even though we were on the street with police officers and crowds of tourists walking by.
“We’re not going to get in any trouble with the weed or the blow?” Local 2 investigative reporter Robert Arnold asked.
“No, this is discreet,” said Martin. “I’m going to get for you.”
Martin even told us if we had the women and drugs delivered to our hotel room, we’d get a discount. We thanked him for his offer and walked away.
On another night in Cancun’s hotel zone, we walked the same street and saw the same crowds eager to fill the night clubs. This time, a man approached us and said for a real party we needed to follow him a club a few blocks away. Inside the club, we were quickly approached by three women who told us we could get marijuana in a private room.
Once inside the room, a woman, without saying a word, pulled out of bag of marijuana and started rolling a joint. She lit it and then offered it to everyone. She was very aware of Mexico’s new drug laws.
“See you take it, it’s no problem. You sell it, it’s problem,” said the woman.
Again, we didn’t buy, use or ask for any drugs, but those in that private room took the drugs with little worry. The waiter serving us drinks also made sure we knew he could get any kind of drug we wanted. Again, we didn’t even have to ask.
“Marijuana, cocaine,” said the waiter.
“You have marijuana, cocaine?” Arnold asked.
“Sure my friend, I like too,” said the waiter. “Don’t worry my friend, trust me.”
“You’re setting us up, aren’t you”” Arnold asked.
“(Look), I promise. Don’t worry, be happy,” said another woman.
Granted, it is not a big surprise to find drugs in Mexico — the same goes for any city in the United States. The difference now is that since Mexico relaxed its drug possession laws, it’s more accessible. Local 2 didn’t look for drugs or ask for drugs. The offers came to us on the street and in the clubs. The casual open approaches by dealers signals there is a good chance your kids will get the same offers we did.
“As we were walking down the street, people were coming up to us asking if we wanted weed,” said Tabitha Morar, a tourist from Chicago. “It didn’t happen when we were here two years ago, but it happened this time. It didn’t just happen once, it happened a couple of times. Obviously it’s bad, we were disturbed.”
Local 2 heard the same stories from tourist after tourist.
“He said, ‘You want something for the party?'” said Michelle, a tourist from St. Louis who didn’t want to give her last name.
“It kind of brings it on a different level coming to Mexico,” said Michelle’s friend, Cindy.
“We’ve been offered cocaine. We’ve been offered ecstasy. We’ve offered Valium, pot, everything,” said Aleesha Heffernan, a tourist from Canada.
Local 2 heard similar stories from other vacation spots in Mexico.
“It really catches you off-guard,” said Local 2 employee Chad Simpson, who recently took a six-day vacation in Acapulco. “These guys were pimping it like it was candy.”
Simpson said he never strayed from the busy tourist zone. Simpson said walking down the main street to the beach from the bed and breakfast where he stayed, he was offered everything from marijuana to cocaine to harder, potent drugs like heroin and meth.
“We had more people selling drugs approach us then we had people selling tacos on the main street,” said Simpson.
So with dealers now openly approaching tourists, there is a concern about the thousands of college and even high school students who will flock to Mexico for Spring Break and May graduation.
In 2005, Local 2 Investigates showed you the dangers of teenage binge drinking in these vacation hot spots. Now, along with the liquor, your kids may run into Martin and hundreds like him. It will all start with a well rehearsed line
“Tell me, I could get everything.”
Officials with the Mexican Consulate in Houston declined Local 2’s request for an on-camera interview to discuss this new law and its potential impact on tourist spots. However, Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon, stated the change in law came because he wants police focusing their efforts on dealers and cartel operations, not junkies.
Mexico’s New Possession Law
Anyone caught with what is considered “personal use” amounts of drugs will no longer face criminal charges. Instead, those caught will be urged to seek treatment and given the address of the nearest rehabilitation clinic. It is still a crime in Mexico to sell drugs or possess drugs over “personal use” amounts.
- Marijuana: 5 grams (about four “joints”)
- Cocaine: Half-gram (about four “lines”)
- Heroin: 50 milligrams (one to two “hits” or a “bag”)
- Methamphetamine: 40 milligrams (one or two “hits” depending on potency)
- LSD: 0.015 milligrams (one “hit”)