Mexico just quietly legalized possession of small amounts of drugs:

No dreadlocked revelers smoked celebratory reefers in the streets, no armies of conservatives protested, the Mexican media raised no hullabaloo. Quietly and with little ado, Mexico last week enacted a law to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all major narcotics, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and crystal meth. Anyone caught in Mexico with two or three joints or about four lines of cocaine can no longer be arrested, fined or imprisoned. However, police will give them the address of the nearest rehab clinic and advise them to get clean…

Washington’s silence on the issue is telling. In 2006, Mexico’s Congress approved a bill with almost exactly the same provisions. However, the Administration of George W. Bush immediately complained about the measure and then President Vicente Fox refused to sign it into law. In contrast, officials of the Obama Administration have been decidedly guarded in commenting on the new legislation. When asked about it in his visit to Mexico last month, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said he would “wait and see.” Many view such a change as evidence that Washington is finally reconsidering its confrontational war on drugs, four decades after Richard Nixon declared it. “There is a growing opinion that the use of force has simply failed to destroy the drug trade and other measures are needed,” says Mexican political analyst José Antonio Crespo. “It appears that the White House may be starting to adjust its approach.”

Good. The important component of any legalization is the emphasis on rehab. Habitual drug use is a social ill, and we should do all we can to help addicts — but throwing them in jail isn’t helpful or compassionate.