Mexico’s drug decriminalization could impact U.S. businesses

Security Executive Council says recent decriminalization raises questions for security directors, company executives


Could new drug laws in Mexico affect business security for non-Mexican firms? That’s the question that businesses should be wrestling with right now, says Bob Hayes, managing director of the Security Executive Council.

His group, a collection of top corporate security directors, has been tracking recent news from the Associated Press out of Mexico that the possession and or use of small, personal amounts of many common drugs is no longer illegal. Mexico now makes it legal to have 5 grams for marijuana, one-half gram for cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams of methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams of LSD. To put that in perspective, that is about four marijuana joints and about a similar number of lines of cocaine.

While the general thought is that decriminalizing such drugs frees up Mexico’s police officers to focus on more serious crimes such as violent murders occurring in some parts of the nation, business leaders like Hayes say it can create problems for U.S. companies who want to ensure that their employees are sober and safe.

“You can still make drug use against company policy, but almost all policies say use or possession of ‘illegal’ drugs, so now they are going to have to list which drugs since these drugs aren’t illegal if the employee uses them in Mexico,” explained Hayes. “And there is no way to test on the quantity of usage. It’s not like blood alcohol content; they have no way to test how much of those drugs you’ve had. There is no standard for impairment with any of those drugs.”

Hayes said it’s not exactly clear how this could impact U.S. employers, and says his organization doesn’t yet know how member companies should react in terms of examining the anti-drug sections of their personnel policies.

“All I know at this point is that you better sit down and figure out what the impact is going to be,” Hayes said. “You need to re-read your policies and see exactly what they say.”

Hayes said the change in Mexico, where many U.S. companies have operations, could also raise issues of pre-employment drug screening and corporate liability.