Crime & Justice

Mexico decriminalizes recreational use of marijuana but not pot sales

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Mexico City, Jun 28 (EFE).- After the brouhaha in the Mexican Congress over legalizing recreational marijuana use, the Supreme Court on Monday issued an historic ruling lifting the prohibition on the recreational use of pot in Mexico although selling it is still a crime.

“Today is an historic day for freedoms. After a long road, this Supreme Court is consolidating the right to the … recreational use of marijuana,” the president of the high court, Arturo Zaldivar, said after the vote.

Eight of the 11 justices voted in favor of allowing recreational pot use while nine voted in favor of various other measures involved in the case, meaning that in both situations the high court voted to nullify the five articles in the General Health Law preventing legal recreational pot use.

With the publication of the ruling in Mexico’s Official Gazette, citizens of the country may request permission from the Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks (Cofepris), which is part of the Health Secretariat, to privately consume pot, along with growing it and possessing it.

The court ordered Cofepris to design the guidelines for acquiring that permission as well as for acquiring the way the public may legally acquire marijuana seeds.

Justice Norma Lucia Piña, a supporter of the measure, said that the consumption of marijuana will only be authorized for adults and that smoking it in public spaces, in front of minors or in any place where the smoke might affect third parties will not be allowed.

Up to now, Mexico had only allowed the medicinal use of marijuana, while recreation consumption had been limited to those who had been granted a judicial waiver.

Although the court session was broadcast live, members of the Mexican Cannabis Movement stationed themselves outside the Supreme Court to call for the end of the prohibition on pot use after spending a year-and-a-half camped out before the Senate demanding the legalization of pot.

Pepe Rivera, a spokesman for the group, hailed the decision since now the ruling applies to “all citizens” and not just a favored few.

In remarks to EFE, he said that the court’s decision “immediately fulfills the four demands of the Cannabis Movement,” which are to allow the non-profit-making consumption of pot, possession of it, dignified treatment of users and safe places where it may be legally consumed.

During the high court session, Justice Piña emphasized that, while Congress is not legislating on the issue, “in no case is importing, marketing or supplying” marijuana legal.

This particular limitation frustrates, for now, the aspirations of many businessmen who, like former President Vicente Fox, who governed from 2000-2006, see in Mexico enormous potential to create the world’s largest legal marijuana market.

According to a report by Endeavour, Mexico is the world’s second-largest cannabis producer, turning out up to 27,000 tons per year, while the Latin American Cannabis Alliance (Alcan) calculates that the medicinal and recreational industry involving the plant could generate more than $22 billion in four years.

The Supreme Court’s decision comes after a long and tortuous road that ends a century of absolute prohibition on marijuana in Mexico.

After a number of consumers have received special dispensation to use it, the Supreme Court ruled that continuing the general prohibition was unconstitutional since it violates “the free development of the personality” and in 2019 it ordered Congress to enact legislation regulating the sector.

After the first two deadlines set by the court were not met, the Senate on Nov. 19, 2020, approved an initial draft of the law, but on March 10, 2021, Chamber of Deputies lawmakers modified it and it returned once again to the Senate, which allowed the April 30 deadline to pass without ratifying the new language.

The high court ruling makes Mexico the third country in the Western Hemisphere to legalize recreational marijuana use nationwide, after Uruguay and Canada.

The ruling allows individuals to be in possession of up to 28 grams of cannabis and establishes a licensing system to cultivate up to eight plants in one’s home, fund smokers’ associations and produce and sell industrial marijuana and hemp.

However, smokers’ associations criticized the text for continuing to criminalize pot consumption by establishing fines and prison terms for exceeding the permitted quantities.

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