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Originally published Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 4:06 PM

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Editorial: Obama, Peña Nieto should have discussed marijuana legalization

Marijuana legalization should have been on the agenda when President Obama and Mexican President Pena Nieto met last week in Mexico.

Seattle Times Editorial

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IN their meeting last week, President Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto had a chance to consider marijuana legalization.

Millions of Americans are ready for this, at least as an option for the states. Mexicans have suffered 60,000 drug-related murders in the past seven years and should be open to such a policy. But Obama and Peña Nieto made no move to consider it.

Obama was elected five years ago as a reformer, but has done little to end marijuana prohibition. Peña Nieto, who took office Dec. 1, is 46, five years younger than Obama and appears to be following the same cautious path.

Speaking to the German magazine Der Spiegel earlier this year, Peña Nieto ruled out change in the treatment of America’s most popular illegal drug. He said, “I’m opposed to legalizing marijuana because it acts as a gateway drug.”

To call cannabis a “gateway drug” is to attach to it the properties of other drugs that are much more troublesome. This rhetorical bait-and-switch implicitly suggests that legalizing marijuana is the same as legalizing methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, etc.

But it has different properties than those drugs and should be treated under different laws.

Last November, the voters of Colorado and Washington decided to legalize cannabis. Our state is setting up a regime of growing, processing and retailing entirely within the state, with the growing entirely indoors.

That is bad news for the drug smugglers and good for the U.S. government, which will see less marijuana coming over the border.

Obama should acknowledge and accept what the Evergreen State is doing. Legalize and regulate is good policy.

It is good politics. It is also good international relations, because it begins to solve, at least partly, a very large problem for the United States and Mexico.

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