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Mexico's top court opens door to recreational marijuana use

November 5, 2015

Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of allowing a group of activists to consume and grow their own marijuana. While the ruling applies to the plaintiffs only, it could set a precedent for future cases.

A marijuana plant in Mexico
Image: picture alliance/dpa/S. Gonzalez

Mexico, a country with a bloody history of conflict with drug cartels, moved one step closer to legalizing marijuana on Wednesday, after the Supreme Court gave the green light to growing pot for recreational use.

Judges ruled 4-1 that a group of four activists should be allowed to grow and smoke their own weed but not sell it.

Wednesday's ruling covers only the four plaintiffs. However, if the court rules the same way on a number of similar petitions, it would establish a precedent to change the law and allow general recreational use.

"This is not for the four of us," one of the group's members Torrest Landa told AFP, adding that they wanted to "break" the government's marijuana prohibition.

Justice Arturo Zaldivar, who backed the group's effort, said the country's marijuana ban was an "extreme" and "disproportionate" measure.

Other activists are expected to push for a similar verdict, which in Mexico needs five similar rulings to establish a legal precedent.

Paves the way

The ruling led several people to celebrate outside the Mexico City court by smoking joints and dancing to reggae music. But opponents of the move also protested nearby.

"Mexico has many problems to resolve. It's not ready for this," said Consuelo Mendoza, president of the National Union of Parents.

The production and sale of marijuana is outlawed but it is legal to carry 5 grams as well as small amounts of other drugs for personal consumption.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who opposes the legalization of marijuana, said his government "respects and accepts" the ruling but called for a "broad debate" on how to regulate the drug's use and "inhibit its consumption."

The health ministry is set to draft new regulations to ensure that the health of non-pot smokers and children is protected.

What next for drugs war?

Marijuana, along with cocaine, heroin and crystal meth, has been a major source of income for Mexican cartels that authorities say generate billions of euros worth of sales annually.

But following years of deadly drugs-related violence, Mexico is under pressure to follow the example of Uruguay and liberalize its policy on marijuana.

Some analysts predict that the country's drug policy will be a deciding factor in the next presidential election, set for 2018.

mm/jr (AP, AFP, Reuters)