Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 29, 2020

Conflicting Laws and Priorities as Drug Policy Implementation Barriers: A Qualitative Analysis of Police Perspectives in Tijuana, Mexico

Mario Morales , Pieter Baker ORCID logo , Claudia Rafful , Maria L. Mittal , Teresita Rocha-Jimenez , Erika Clairgue , Jaime Arredondo , Javier A. Cepeda , Steffanie A. Strathdee and Leo Beletsky EMAIL logo

Abstract

Background and Aims

Drug policy reforms typically seek to improve health among people who use drugs (PWUD), but flawed implementation impedes potential benefits. Mexico’s 2009 drug policy reform emphasized public health-oriented measures to address addiction. Implementation has been deficient, however. We explored the role of municipal police officers’ (MPOs) enforcement decision-making and local systems as barriers to reform operationalization.

Methods

Between February-June 2016, 20 semi-structured interviews were conducted with MPOs in Tijuana. Interviews were transcribed, translated and coded using a consensus-based approach. Emergent themes, trends and frameworks were analyzed through a hermeneutic grounded theory protocol.

Results

In conceptualizing their orientation towards municipal (not state) law, MPOs reported prioritizing enforcement of nebulous anti-vice ordinances to control PWUD activity. Local laws were seen as conflicting with drug policy reforms. Incentives within the police organization were aligned with ordinance enforcement, generating pressure through quotas and reinforced by judges. Driven by discretion, fuzzy understanding of procedures, and incentives to sanitize space, detention of PWUD for minor infractions was systematic.

Conclusions

Failure to harmonize policies and priorities at different levels of government undermine effective operationalization of health-oriented drug policy. Implementation must address local priorities and administrative pressures shaping MPO decision-making and enforcement practice.

Funding statement: This work was supported by the Fogarty International Center (Funder Id: http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000061, Grant Number: D43TW008633), Open Society Foundations Latin America Program (Grant Number: OR2013-11352), Open Society Foundations Latin America Program, (Grant Number: OR2014-18327), UC-MEXUS/CONACyT (Grant Number: Dissertation Grant DI 15-42), and National Institute on Drug Abuse (Funder Id:http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000026, Grant Number: K01DA043421).

  1. Competing interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

References

Amster, R. 2003. “Patterns of Exclusion: Sanitizing Space, Criminalizing Homelessness.” Social Justice 30 (1): 195–221.Search in Google Scholar

Arredondo, J., T Gaines , S. Manian, C. Vilalta, A. Bañuelos, S. A. Strathdee, and L. Beletsky. 2018. “The Law on the Streets: Evaluating the Impact of Mexico’s Drug Decriminalization Reform on Drug Possession Arrests in Tijuana, Mexico.” International Journal of Drug Policy 54: 1–8.10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.12.006Search in Google Scholar

Atuesta, L. H. 2014. “La Política De Drogas En México 2006–2012: Análisis Y Resultados De Una Política Prohibicionista (The Drug Policy in Mexico 2006–2012: Analysis and Results of a Prohibitionist Policy).” Cuadernos De Trabajo Del Seminario Del Programa De Política De Drogas, Centro De Investigación Y Docencia Económicas, Región Centro 1: 1–52.Search in Google Scholar

Ayuntamiento de Tijuana. 2009. “Bando de Policía y Gobierno para el Municipio de Tijuana, Baja California (Police and Government Ordinance for the Municipality of Tijuana, Baja California).” Accessed April 29, 2015. http://goo.gl/vkl01D.Search in Google Scholar

Beckett, K., and S. Herbert. 2008. “Dealing with Disorder: Social Control in the Post-Industrial City.” Theoretical Criminology 12 (1): 5–30.10.1177/1362480607085792Search in Google Scholar

Beletsky, L., G. E. Macalino, and S. Burris. 2005. “Attitudes of Police Officers Towards Syringe Access, Occupational Needle-sticks, and Drug Use: a Qualitative Study of One City Police Department in the United States.” International Journal of Drug Policy 16: 267–74.10.1016/j.drugpo.2005.01.009Search in Google Scholar

Beletsky, L., K. D. Wagner, J. Arredondo, L. Palinkas, C. Magis-Rodriguez, N. Kalic, N. L. Barron, and S. A. Strathdee. 2016. “Implementing Mexico’s “Narcomenudeo” Drug Law Reform: A Mixed-Methods Assessment of Early Experiences among People Who Inject Drugs.” Journal of Mixed Methods Research 10 (4): 384–401.10.1177/1558689815575862Search in Google Scholar

Borquez, A., L. Beletsky, B. Nosyk, S. A. Strathdee, A. Madrazo, D. Abramovitz, C. Rafful, et al. 2018. “The Effect of Public Health-oriented Drug Law Reform on HIV Incidence in People Who Inject Drugs in Tijuana, Mexico: an Epidemic Modelling Study.” Lancet Public Health 3 (9): e429-e437. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30097–5.10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30097-5Search in Google Scholar

Burris, S., K. M. Blankenship, M. Donoghoe, S. Sherman, J. S. Vernick, P. Case, Z. Lazzarini, and S. Koester. 2004. “Addressing the “Risk Environment” for Injection Drug Users: the Mysterious Case of the Missing Cop.” Milbank Quarterly 82 (1): 125–56.10.1111/j.0887-378X.2004.00304.xSearch in Google Scholar

Bustamante-Moreno, J. G., J. A. Izazola-Licea, and C. Rodríguez-Ajenjo. 2010. “Tackling HIV and Drug Addiction in Mexico.” Lancet 376 (9740): 493–95.10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60883-5Search in Google Scholar

Camara de Diputados, H. 2007. Plan Nacional De Desarrollo 2007–2012 (National Development Plan 2007–2012). Mexico: Diario Oficial de la Federacion.Search in Google Scholar

Cepeda, J. A., S. A. Strathdee, J. Arredondo, M. L. Mittal, T. Rocha, M. Morales, E. Clairgue, et al. 2017. “Assessing Police Officers’ Attitudes and Legal Knowledge on Behaviors that Impact HIV Transmission among People Who Inject Drugs.” International Journal of Drug Policy 50: 56–63.10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.09.009Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Charmaz, K. 2000. Grounded Theory. Handbook of Qualitative Research, edited by N. K. Denzin, and Y. S. Lincoln, 509–35. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Search in Google Scholar

CONAPO. 2014. “Proyecciones De Población 2010–2050 (Population Projections 2010–2050).” Accessed April 9, 2015. http://goo.gl/HIy9E.Search in Google Scholar

Diario Oficial de la Federación. 2009. “Reforma De La Ley De Salud (Health Law Reform).” Accessed March 3, 2014. http://goo.gl/O4Nn9O.Search in Google Scholar

Gaines, T. L., D. Werb, J. Arredondo, V. M. Alaniz, C. Vilalta, and L. Beletsky. 2017. “The Spatial-temporal Pattern of Policing following a Drug Policy Reform: Triangulating Self-reported Arrests with Official Crime Statistics.” Substance Use & Misuse 52 (2): 214–22.10.1080/10826084.2016.1223689Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Glaser, B. G. 2004. “Remodeling Grounded Theory.” Qualitative Social Research 5 (2): 1–22.Search in Google Scholar

Green, T. C., E. G. Martin, S. E. Bowman, M. R. Mann, and L. Beletsky. 2012. “Life after the Ban: an Assessment of US Syringe Exchange Programs’ Attitudes about and Early Experiences with Federal Funding.” American Journal of Public Health 102 (5): 9–16.10.2105/AJPH.2011.300595Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Herbert, S., and E. Brown. 2006. “Conceptions of Space and Crime in the Punitive Neoliberal City.” Antipode 38 (4): 755–577.10.1111/j.1467-8330.2006.00475.xSearch in Google Scholar

Mackey, T. K., D. Werb, L. Beletsky, G. Rangel, J. Arredondo, and S. A. Strathdee. 2014. “Mexico’s “Ley De Narcomenudeo” Drug Policy Reform and the International Drug Control Regime.” Harm Reduction Journal 11 (1): 31.10.1186/1477-7517-11-31Search in Google Scholar

Madrazo, A. 2014a. “El Impacto De La Política De Drogas 2006–2012 En La Legislación Federal (The Impact of the Drug Policy 2006–2012 on Federal Legislation).” Cuadernos De Trabajo Del Seminario Del Programa De Política De Drogas, Centro De Investigación Y Docencia Económicas, Región Centro (7): 1–54. https://bit.ly/2SAWAq7.Search in Google Scholar

Madrazo, A. 2014b. Marco Normativo Nacional De La Política De Drogas (National Regulatory Framework for Drug Policy). El Mal Menor En La Gestión De Las Drogas, De La Prohibición a La Regulación, edited by B. González-Aréchiga, D. Pérez, A. Madrazo, and J. A. Caballero, 61–82. Mexico, DF: McGraw-Hill Interamericana editores.Search in Google Scholar

Magis-Rodríguez, C., A. Ruiz-Badillo, R. Ortiz-Mondragón, M. Loya-Sepúlveda, M. J. Bravo-Portela, and R. Lozada-Romero. 2002. “Estudio Sobre Prácticas De Riesgo De Infección Para VIH/SIDA En Inyectores De Drogas De La Cd. De Tijuana B.C. (Study on Infection Risk Practices for HIV/AIDS in Drug Injectors of Tijuana B.C.).” Temas De VIH/SIDA Y Otras Infecciones De Transmisión Sexual.Search in Google Scholar

Miller, C. L., M. Firestone, R. Ramos, S. Burris, M. E. Ramos, P. Case, K. C. Brouwer, M. A. Fraga, and S. Strathdee. 2008. “Injecting Drug Users’ Experiences of Policing Practices in Two Mexican-U.S. Border Cities: Public Health Prespectives.” International Journal of Drug Policy 19 (4): 324–31.10.1016/j.drugpo.2007.06.002Search in Google Scholar

Mitchell, D. 1997. “The Annihilation of Space by Law: the Roots and Implications of Anti-homeless Laws in the United States.” Antipode 29 (3): 303–35.10.1111/1467-8330.00048Search in Google Scholar

Pérez, C., F. Alonso, and K. Silva. 2013. “La Reforma En Materia De Narcomenudeo: Seguimiento De Los Cambios Legislativos E Institucionales (Small-scale Drug Dealing Reform: Monitoring Legislative and Institutional Changes).” Cuadernos De Trabajo Del Seminario Del Programa De Política De Drogas, Centro De Investigación Y Docencia Económicas, Región Centro (61): 1–42.Search in Google Scholar

Pérez, C., and R. Meneses. 2014. “La Guerra Contra Las Drogas Y El Procesamiento Penal De Los Delitos De Drogas 2006–2012 (The War on Drugs and the Criminal Prosecution of Drug Crimes 2006–2012).” Cuadernos De Trabajo Del Seminario Del Programa De Política De Drogas, Centro De Investigación Y Docencia Económicas, Región Centro (11): 1–50.Search in Google Scholar

Pérez, C., and K. Silva. 2014. “El Estado Frente Al Consumo Y Los Consumidores De Drogas Ilícitas En México (The State against the Consumption and Consumers of Illicit Drugs in Mexico).” Cuadernos De Trabajo Del Seminario Del Programa De Política De Drogas, Centro De Investigacion Y Docencia Económicas, Región Centro 8: 72. https://issuu.com/ppdcide/docs/libro_11.Search in Google Scholar

Philbin, M., R. A. Pollini, R. Ramos, R. Lozada, K. C. Brouwer, M. E. Ramos, M. Firestone-Cruz, P. Case, and S. A. Strathdee. 2008. “Shooting Gallery Attendance among IDUs in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico: Correlates, Prevention Opportunities, and the Role of the Environment.” AIDS Behavior 12: 552–60.10.1007/s10461-008-9372-6Search in Google Scholar

Pinedo, M., J. L. Burgos, and V. D. Ojeda. 2014. “A Critical Review of Social and Structural Conditions that Influence HIV Risk among Mexican Deportees.” Microbes and Infection 16: 379–90.10.1016/j.micinf.2014.02.006Search in Google Scholar

Pinedo, M., J. L. Burgos, M. L. Zuniga, R. Perez, C. A. Macera, and V. D. Ojeda. 2015. “Police Victimization among Persons Who Inject Drugs along the US-Mexico Border.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 76 (5): 758–63.10.15288/jsad.2015.76.758Search in Google Scholar

Policy, G. C. o. D. 2011. War on Drugs. Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, 21. Geneva, Switzerland: G. C. O. D. Policy. https://bit.ly/2SSVWmx.Search in Google Scholar

Policy, G. C. o. D. 2013. The Negative Impact of the War on Drugs on Public Health: the Hidden Hepatitis C EpidemiC. G. C. O. D. Policy. Geneva, Switzerland. 24p. https://bit.ly/37C0qDz.Search in Google Scholar

Policy, G. C. o. D. 2014. Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work. Geneva, Switzerland, Global Commission on Drug Policy, 25p. https://bit.ly/2HveFzp.Search in Google Scholar

Pollini, R. A., K. C. Brouwer, R. Lozada, R. Ramos, M. F. Cruz, C. Magis-Rodriguez, P. Case, et al. 2007. “Syringe Possession Arrests are Associated with Receptive Syringe Sharing in Two Mexico-US Border Cities.” Addiction 103: 101–08.10.1111/j.1360-0443.2007.02051.xSearch in Google Scholar

Rafful, Claudia, María Elena Medina-Mora, Patricia González-Zúñiga, Janis H. Jenkins, M. Gudelia Rangel, Steffanie A. Strathdee, and Peter J. Davidson. 2019. “Somebody Is Gonna Be Hurt”: Involuntary Drug Treatment in Mexico, Medical Anthropology. https://doi.org/10.1080/01459740.2019.1609470. https://bit.ly/2SRnAAn.10.1080/01459740.2019.1609470Search in Google Scholar

Rhodes, T. 2002. “The ‘Risk Environment’: a Framework for Understanding and Reducing Drug-related Harm.” International Journal of Drug Policy 13: 85–94.10.1016/S0955-3959(02)00007-5Search in Google Scholar

Rhodes, T. 2009. “Risk Environments and Drug Harms: a Social Science for Harm Reduction Approach.” International Journal of Drug Policy 20: 193–201.10.1016/j.drugpo.2008.10.003Search in Google Scholar PubMed

Rhodes, T., M. Singer, P. Bourgois, S. R. Friedman, and S. A. Strathdee. 2005. “The Social Structural Production of HIV Risk among Injecting Drug Users.” Social Science & Medicine 61: 1026–44.10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.12.024Search in Google Scholar PubMed

Rhodes, T., K. Wagner, S. A. Strathdee, K. Shannon, P. Davidson, and P. Bourgois. 2012. Structural Violence and Structural Vulnerability within the Risk Environment: Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives for a Social Epidemiology of HIV Risk among Injection Drug Users and Sex Workers. Rethinking Social Epidemiology: Towards a Science of Change, edited by P. O’Campo, and J. R. Dunn, 205–30. New York: Springer Science.10.1007/978-94-007-2138-8_10Search in Google Scholar

Rights, W. C. o. H. 1993. The Vienna DeclaratioN. Leading the Way to Illicit Drug Policies Based on Evidence, Not Ideology. U. N. H. R. O. O. T. H. Commissioner, 20. Vienna: World Conference on Human Rights. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/vienna.pdf.Search in Google Scholar

Robertson, A. M., R. S. Garfein, K. D. Wagner, S. R. Mehta, C. Magis-Rodriguez, J. Cuevas-Mota, P. Gonzalez-Zuniga, and S. A. Strathdee Proyecto El Cuete IV and STAHR II. 2014. “Evaluating the Impact of Mexico’s Drug Policy Reforms on People Who Inject Drugs in Tijuana, BC, Mexico and San Diego, CA United States: a Binational Mixed Methods Research Agenda.” Harm Reduction Journal 11 (4): 1–14.Search in Google Scholar

Robertson, A. M., A. Vera, M. Gallardo, R. A. Pollini, T. L. Patterson, P. Case, L. Nguyen, and S. A. Strathdee. 2010. “Correlates of Seeking Injection Assistance among Injection Drug Users in Tijuana, Mexico.” American Journal of Addictions 19 (4): 357–63.10.1111/j.1521-0391.2010.00053.xSearch in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Shapiro, J. B. 2010. “What are They Smoking?! Mexico’s Decriminalization of Small-Scale Drug Possession in the Wake of a Law Enforcement Failure.” The University of Miami Inter-American Law Review 42 (1): 115–44.Search in Google Scholar

Smith, N. 2001. “Global Social Cleansing: Postliberal Revanchism and the Export of Zero Tolerance.” Social Justice 28 (3): 68–74.Search in Google Scholar

Strathdee, S., W. Davila, P. Case, M. Firestone, K. C. Brouwer, S. G. Perez, C. Magis, and M. A. Fraga. 2005. ““Vivo Para Consumirla Y La Consumo Para Vivir” [“I Live to Inject and Inject to Live”]: High-Risk Injection Behaviors in Tijuana, Mexico.” Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 82 (3):iv58–73.10.1093/jurban/jti108Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Strathdee, S., R. Lozada, R. A. Pollini, K. C. Brouwer, A. Mantsios, D. A. Abramovitz, T. Rhodes, et al. 2008a. “Individual, Social, and Environmental Influences Associated with HIV Infection among Injection Drug Users in Tijuana, Mexico.” Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 47 (3): 369–76.10.1097/QAI.0b013e318160d5aeSearch in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Strathdee, S. A., J. Arredondo, T. Rocha, D. Abramovitz, M. L. Rolon, E. Patino, G. Rangel, et al. 2015. “A Police Education Programme to Integrate Occupational Safety and HIV Prevention: Protocol for A Modified Stepped-wedge Study Design with Parallel Prospective Cohorts to Assess Behavioural Outcomes.” BMJ Open Online 5: e008958.10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008958Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Strathdee, S. A., L. Beletsky, and T. Kerr. 2015. “HIV, Drugs and the Legal Environment.” International Journal of Drug Policy 26: S27–32.10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.09.001Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Strathdee, S. A., R. Lozada, V. D. Ojeda, R. A. Pollini, K. C. Brouwer, A. Vera, W. Cornelius, L. Nguyen, C. Magis-Rodriguez, and T. L. Pattersonfor Proyecto El Cuete. 2008b. “Differential Effects of Migration and Deportation on HIV Infection among Male and Female Injection Drug Users in Tijuana, Mexico.” PloS One 3 (7): e2690.10.1371/journal.pone.0002690Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Strathdee, S. A., C. Magis-Rodriguez, V. M. Mays, R. Jimenez, and T. L. Patterson. 2012. “The Emerging HIV Epidemic on the Mexico-US Border: an International Case Study Characterizing the Role of Epidemiology in Surveillance and Response.” Annals of Epidemiology 22 (6): 426–38.10.1016/j.annepidem.2012.04.002Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Strauss, A., and J. Corbin. 1994. Grounded Theory Methodology. Handbook of Qualitative Resesarch, edited by K. Denzin, and Y. S. Lincoln, 273–85. Thousand Oaks: Sage publishers.Search in Google Scholar

Stuart, F. 2014. “From ‘Rabble Management’ to ‘Recovery Management’: Policing Homelessness in Marginal Urban Space.” Urban Studies 51 (9): 1909–25.10.1177/0042098013499798Search in Google Scholar

Stuart, F. 2015. “On the Streets, under Arrest: Policing Homelessness in the twenty-first Century.” Sociology Compass 9 (11): 940–50.10.1111/soc4.12324Search in Google Scholar

Suddaby, R. 2006. “From the Editors: What Grounded Theory Is Not.” The Academy of Management Journal 49 (4): 633–42.10.5465/amj.2006.22083020Search in Google Scholar

Tijuana, A. d. 2009. “Bando De Policía Y Gobierno Para El Municipio De Tijuana, Baja California (Police and Government Ordinance for the Municipality of Tijuana, Baja California).” Accessed April 29, 2015. http://goo.gl/vkl01D.Search in Google Scholar

Volkmann, T., R. Lozada, C. M. Anderson, T. L. Patterson, A. Vera, and S. A. Strathdee. 2011. “Factors Associated with Drug-related Harms Related to Policing in Tijuana, Mexico.” Harm Reduction Journal 8 (7): 1–8.10.1186/1477-7517-8-7Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Wacquant, L. 2000. “The New Peculiar Institution: on the Prison as Surrogate Ghetto.” Theoretical Criminology 4 (3): 377–89.10.1177/1362480600004003007Search in Google Scholar

Wacquant, L. 2001. “The Penalisation of Poverty and the Rise of Neoliberalism.” European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research 9 (4): 401–12.10.1023/A:1013147404519Search in Google Scholar

Wacquant, L. 2003. “Toward a Dictatorship over the Poor? Notes on the Penalization of Poverty in Brazil.” Punishment and Society 5 (2): 197–205.10.1177/146247450352004Search in Google Scholar

Wacquant, L. 2007. “Territorial Stigmatization in the Age of Advanced Marginality.” Thesis Eleven 91: 66–77.10.1177/0725513607082003Search in Google Scholar

Wacquant, L. 2009. Punishing the Poor. The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity. Durham: Duke University Press.10.1215/9780822392255Search in Google Scholar

Wacquant, L., T. Slater, and V. Borges-Pereira. 2014. “Territorial Stigmatization in Action.” Environment and Planning A 46: 1270–80.10.1068/a4606geSearch in Google Scholar

Werb, D., M. E. Medina-Mora, L. Beletsky, C. Rafful, T. Mackey, J. Arredondo, and S. A. Strathdee. 2014. “Mexico’s Drug Policy Reform: Cutting Edge Success or Crisis in the Making?” International Journal of Drug Policy 25: 823–25.10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.05.014Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Werb, D., S. A. Strathdee, E. Meza, M. G. Rangel-Gómez, L. Palinkas, M. E. Medina-Mora, and L. Beletsky. 2015. “Institutional Stakeholder Perceptions of Barriers to Addiction Treatment under Mexico’s Drug Policy Reform.” Global Public Health 12 (5): 519–30.10.1080/17441692.2015.1093524Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

Published Online: 2020-02-29

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 6.12.2022 from frontend.live.degruyter.dgbricks.com/document/doi/10.1515/jdpa-2018-0014/html
Scroll Up Arrow