updated 11/29/2005 9:42:49 AM ET 2005-11-29T14:42:49

Mexico changed its constitution on Monday to allow state and local police to pursue drug traffickers, removing a major stumbling block in anti-drug efforts that had long been the exclusive realm of federal officers.

The measure is part of a package of bills that includes the possibility of using millions of dollars in seized drug money to fund rewards for the capture of traffickers; the blocking of cell phone calls from inside prisons and the registration of bulletproof cars frequently used by drug traffickers.

“We are multiplying our power in an extraordinary way,” Eduardo Medina Mora, the federal secretary of public safety, said of the constitutional change. “Local authorities ... will be able to pursue drug distributors and dealers. They will be able to conduct searches without a federal warrant.”

The change in the constitution was approved by a majority of Mexico’s 31 state legislatures — not including Mexico City — and by a majority in both houses of the country’s congress. It was published Monday in Mexico’s government gazette, making the change official.

The scope of the changes will be determined by implementing legislation, some of which is expected to be approved in December. Lawmakers could open the way for other federal crimes, like weapons possession, to be prosecuted by local authorities.

Medina Mora said federal police number only about 20,000, but there are 380,000 state and local police in Mexico.

“Now that states have powers to deal with this, we will have a much more resolute and effective combat against this issue,” he said.

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