Drug prohibition and criminal opportunity

Just a couple of days before a new legislation that allows the possession of a certain amount of controlled substances was passed, three of my friends were hanging out in a well off neighbourhood park, drinking beer and smoking a joint. Soon enough, the joint was consumed and only a roach was left. As the effect of cannabis began to reach its plateau, my friends hid the joint and continued to drink beer in a casual way.

A little while later, they were coarsely approached by a couple of policemen, who argued that it was prohibited to drink alcohol in public places, and that they were under arrest. In Mexico City, the consumption of alcohol in public spaces is now considered to be a misdemeanour, which is punishable by a small fine. Sadly, my uninformed friends did not know this. Being misinformed was the first mistake they made in what was to become a vicious chain of goofy faults.

Taking advantage of my friends’ nervousness, the policemen “asked” to frisk their possessions and found the leftover joint. At that point in the story, my friends were still left with a few plausible options: they could have argued that the possession of such a small amount of cannabis did not constitute a crime (which was not entirely true till a couple of days later); had the policemen not gone for that possibility, a small bribe (not something that I condone) and a little attitude would probably have sufficed.

It was then that things really started to go wrong.

Intimidated by the policemen’s arrogance, my friends allowed them to conduct a second search, that time in their vehicle. As it turns out, a considerably larger amount of cannabis was hidden in the car. This marijuana was genuinely destined for personal consumption, but the policemen now had evidence that suggested otherwise.

Up until then, the policemen’s actions, though not cordial, could fall within the legal procedures’ framework. What happened next was a clear indication of the corruption and criminal methods that this nation’s police force uses in a widespread manner.

Each one of my friends was held in different vehicles: one alone in a patrol car, another in a second patrol car with two policemen guards, and the third one in his own car with three policemen.

The police then began a kind of negotiation / extortion with my friends. To make a long story short, a substantial amount of money was to be given in exchange for the release of my friends (does the word ‘kidnapping’ ring a bell?). A delivery point was arranged and the exchange was successfully made.

This story is taken from a new joint publication between TalkingDrugs and IDPC looking at young people's experience of current systems of drug control.


PDF download: