Mexico's Supreme Court legalizes cannabis for recreational use

By Patrick Timmons
Mexico's Supreme Court handed down two rulings today paving the way for non-commercial use by adults. File photo.
Mexico's Supreme Court handed down two rulings today paving the way for non-commercial use by adults. File photo.

MEXICO CITY, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Drug policy reformers claimed victory in Mexico City Wednesday after the country's Supreme Court handed down two rulings legalizing cannabis for all forms of non-commercial adult use.

"The rulings pave the way for adults to use marijuana in any way they see fit. We aren't just talking about recreational use," Froylán Enciso, a drug policy researcher at Mexico's social sciences institute, the CIDE, told UPI.


In the first case, a plaintiff wanting to grow his own marijuana applied to the court for an "amparo," a form of constitutional protection from prosecution, so that he can plant, cultivate, harvest, prepare, possess and transport marijuana.

In the second case, another plaintiff also applied for an amparo to consume marijuana for recreational purposes.

The two different plaintiffs aimed to declare unconstitutional Mexico's federal health and penal laws concerning the use of marijuana for non-medical purposes.

"The court has found that marijuana can be used for rituals, for recreational use, for medical use, at work, for scientific investigations. For any adult use and that it cannot be penalized," Enciso said.

The drug policy researcher said most people in prison in Mexico for drug crimes are incarcerated for possessing marijuana.


"The Mexican government has not put violent criminals in prison but people who smoke small quantities on street corners or outside," Enciso said, "so these decisions will benefit many small consumers."

The rulings come after years of strategic litigation by Mexican drug policy activists starting in 2015. Unlike the United States, Mexican federal law requires five consecutive rulings on the same issue and in the same direction to create jurisprudence eventually declaring a law unconstitutional.

The next step toward legalization of cannabis for non-commercial purposes is that the Supreme Court must inform Mexico's Congress within 90 days that prohibiting adult use is unconstitutional. Congress then has to reform the laws the court found unconstitutional. If Congress does not act, every adult prosecuted for using marijuana can also apply for protection from the judicial system.

"The rulings create jurisprudence but they do not in themselves amount to changes in legislation," Enciso said. "Even so they are very important not just for Mexico but for the United States."

"When Congress declares marijuana prohibition unconstitutional in Mexico," the drug policy researcher said, "the federal government of the United States will be the only prohibitionist jurisdiction left in North America. Canada now has legal marijuana. More than 30 states in the U.S. have some form of marijuana legalization. And now with Mexico legalizing consumption and production, the only drug warriors remaining in North America are President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions."


In both cases decided Wednesday the Supreme Court's justices ruled 4-1 in favor of granting adults the right to use marijuana for non-commercial purposes. The one justice who ruled against the plaintiffs argued adult use must not infringe upon the rights of others.

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