Dents in Mexico’s Prohibition

Pro-Pot Court Ruling Leads to Cannabis Possession and Cultivation Permits for Four Mexicans

Dramatic transformation in cannabis policy is a safe prediction for 2016 not only for the U.S., but for our neighbors to the North and South as well. Canada’s newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a mandate letter to his Attorney General in November that directs her to “create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.” In contrast, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto strongly opposes legalizing cannabis. Nonetheless, first steps towards legalization in Mexico are progressing through its Supreme Court.

Last month the first permits were issued by the Mexican government to allow four of its citizens to legally grow and possess cannabis for personal use. The permits were mandated by a historic decision on November 4th by a chamber of the Supreme Court. By a 4-1 vote, the judges determined that the prohibition of cannabis consumption and prohibition of cultivation for personal use are violations of the right to “free development of the personality” as defined in article 19 of the Mexican constitution.

The ruling only applies to the four actual plaintiffs who appealed the rejection of their petition to form a cannabis club. The petition was filed by the Mexican Association for Responsible Self-Consumption and Tolerance (SMART); and rejected by the by the Federal Commission for the Prevention of Health Risks (COFEPRIS). An English translation of the historic ruling can be found on leafly.com.

“It was fabulous because it really took off on the level that transcends most of the normal litigation and arguments,” said Pier 5 Law’s legendary attorney Tony Serra on Cannabis Consciousness News Episode #41. “The 88-page opinion is predicated on principles of human rights and state recognition of individual’s autonomy to engage in recreational activities that do not harm others,” he said.

“It’s rather amazing news,” remarked High Times journalist Bill Weinberg on Cannabis Consciousness News Episode #40. Weinberg, a specialist in the Mexican Drug War, explained that the court ruling is  “…not as dramatic a development as it would be in the United States. Mexico has traditionally had a weak judiciary. Under the constitution in Mexico, the Supreme Court has got to rule on the question multiple times before it is actually stricken from the books.”

Four more similar decisions by Supreme Court chambers would make the ruling apply across the country, as per Mexican law. Indeed, that was the path that recently legalized same-sex marriage throughout Mexico when a fifth favorable ruling was made this past June. Weinberg is optimistic that the Mexican Congress could legalize it even before the Supreme Court does.  He’s heard reports that a legalization bill is in the works, but not yet introduced in Congress, thanks to strong pressure from ex-Mexican President Vicente Fox and other advocates.

Tony Serra disagreed, pointing out that legalization is still very politically unpopular in Mexico. “Recent polls show only two percent will admit to using marijuana,…77 percent of Mexico’s population oppose legalizing marijuana and only 20 percent support it….No real chance of the legislature down there doing anything to decriminalize.”

“But here’s the huge positives,” Serra continued. “The spin, the media spin, is self-fulfilling! The media is saying in essence, ‘oh boy, the Supreme Court down there ruled that its legal to use marijuana at a personal level’. Well they didn’t, but if everyone thinks that, that is the direction that the law will evolve because the populace will accept it and some will demand it.”

A growing number of Mexicans are disillusioned with the “Drug War” policies that have led to over 80,000 deaths over the past decade, said Weinberg. “People driven by desperation consider political solutions that were completely taboo before. Finally, the idealogical armor of the Drug War has got some serious dents in it. Uruguay led the way, but Uruguay is a very small country and traditionally a very peaceful country,” Weinberg said. “Mexico is a big country; one of the political leaders of South America; and it has really suffered a terrible, terrible cost from the whole prohibitionist model. If Mexico actually legalizes in the years or even months to come, that would be very significant for the entire hemisphere and the entire world.”

*Kerry Reynolds is the producer of Cannabis Consciousness News, a weekly radio show providing national and global cannabis news and perspectives. Her show airs every Thursday at 5:30pm PST on KMUD-FM, and can also be found on canconnews.com.

Emerald contributor since April 2019

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