The Supreme Court of Mexico decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults this past Monday, declaring articles of the health law that prohibited it, unconstitutional.
“Today is a historic day for freedoms. After a long journey, this Supreme Court consolidates the right to free development of the personality for the recreational use of marijuana”, said the president of the court, Arturo Zaldívar, after the decision was approved by eight of the 11 magistrates.
This declaration implies that those who want to use marijuana for recreational purposes can request a permit from the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris), and that this cannot be denied.
“What had happened on previous occasions was that “Cofepris” denied these permits and an appeal had to be processed,” Adriana Muro, director of the Human Rights organization Elementa, explained. Now “it no longer has to be processed, automatically that permission has to be given,” she added.
The ruling came after the expiration of the deadline that the highest court had given Congress to issue legislation in this regard on April 30th. The sentence is in addition to the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, decriminalized since June 2017.
On March 10, the Mexican Chamber of Deputies had approved a bill to that effect. A vote was lacking in the Senate, which had already endorsed the text in November, but had to retake it after several changes in the Lower House.
However, in early April, the ruling majority in the Senate said it was analyzing postponing the final discussion until September. Ricardo Monreal, coordinator of the bench of the ruling party, said at the time that the regulations sent by the Chamber of Deputies had inconsistencies. Although civil organizations and specialists applauded the Supreme Court’s decision, they warned that Congress still needs to regulate the matter.
“The penalization of cannabis users still persists, since the decision does not affect the penal system and leaves a legal vacuum with respect to the consumption, cultivation and distribution” of the plant, the NGO México Unido contra la Delinquencia expressed on Twitter.
For his part, Jorge Hernández Tinajero, an activist for the regulation of cannabis in Mexico since the 1990s, pointed out that the Legislative branch has been unable to “regulate reality”, such as the possession and commercialization of marijuana. “They continue to maintain the secondary norms that criminalize,” he said.
Despite this, the decision is a milestone for Mexico, of 126 million inhabitants, which has been plunged into a violent spiral since 2006, when the then federal government launched a controversial military operation against powerful drug cartels.
Since then, the country has accumulated more than 300,000 murders, most of them attributed to organized crime, so legislators and activists believe that the legalization of consumption can help stop the bloodbath.
Promoters of decriminalization, such as the Grupo Promotor de la Industria del Cannabis (GPIC), consider that the recent legal measures profile Mexico as the largest market in the world, above the United States and Canada. In 2020 alone, 244 tons of marijuana were seized in the country.
The most recent national survey on drugs (2016) found that 7.3 million Mexicans between 12 and 65 years old tried marijuana at some time and 1.82 million showed prevalence of use.