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Latin America

Mexico debates legalizing marijuana

Supreme Court to hear arguments in favor of allowing consumption for medicinal ends

Legalización Marihuana
The Mexican Supreme Court in session at the beginning of October. NOTIMEX

The Mexican Supreme Court’s decision to hear arguments next week about the possible legalization of marijuana has pushed the country’s major political parties to take an official position on an issue that has divided public opinion ever since the government of President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) waged a bloody war against the cartels.

Supreme Court Justice Minister Arturo Zaldívar has proposed legalizing marijuana for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, and one of the biggest supporters of the plan is Mexico City’s high-profile leftist Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera, who believes the country is prepared for such a move.

One of the biggest supporters of the legalization plan is Mexico City’s high-profile leftist mayor 

“We should not reject the debate,” said Mancera, of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), on Tuesday. “I think the Chamber of Deputies should participate in this.”

Mexico City has seen a surge in homicides and other crimes within the past few months as drug-trafficking organizations move their operations from outlying states to the Mexican capital, authorities believe.

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has posted an online public questionnaire to gauge Mexicans’ position on legalization.

In May 2014, the Mexican Congress carried out its own survey that concluded that 70 percent of those polled were against legalizing marijuana.

Margarita Zavala, a member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), and a former first lady who plans on running for president in 2018, has called for a national referendum on legalizing the drug for recreational use.

Her husband, ex-president Calderón, waged a bloody war against the nation’s most powerful drug cartels that began at the start of his six-year term in 2006. Around 80,000 lives were lost and 20,000 other people disappeared during the heavy battles, according to rights organizations.

Manuel Mondragón, national commissioner for drug addiction prevention, said he would not support any legalization proposal.

“I don’t want to live in a society addicted to marijuana,” said Mondragón, a doctor who claims that addiction has grown in recent years. “Over half of consumers are now minors.”

Young people commonly admit to first smoking marijuana from the age of 12, he said.

I don’t want to live in a society addicted to marijuana”

Manuel Mondragón, national commissioner for drug addiction prevention

Zaldívar’s proposal centers on a previous petition filed by a cannabis club, which asked the Mexican government for licenses to grow and cultivate marijuana plants for recreational purposes. The filing was rejected two years ago.

But Zaldívar believes that the state should not limit citizens’ guarantees in such a manner. “The possibility to decide responsibly whether to experience the effects of this substance is an individual decision,” the minister wrote.

In 2009, the government lifted penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. But experts believe that these amounts allowed by law are so insignificant that many people are still charged with possession.

Zaldívar wrote in his writ that marijuana consumption by adults “should not pose a significant health hazard” if it is not “chronically and excessively” consumed.

For his proposal to pass, it must be backed by three of the five justices on the bench.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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