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Growing, distributing, selling and buying marijuana in Mexico is considered a serious crime. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of four people allowing them to receive a special permit to grow marijuana legally, although they will not be able to distribute or sell the weed. Mexico is one of the world’s biggest producers of cannabis and is facing an armed conflict since the last administration launched a crackdown against drug cartels.
So, who are allowed to use marijuana now?
Justices of the First Chamber of the Supreme Court have declared that individuals are free to grow marijuana for their personal use or consumption. Such freedom is protected within the fundamental right to development and welfare set forth in the Constitution. The ruling however protects only the plaintiffs of the case, a group of four people, members of the SMART collective (Sociedad Mexicana de Autoconsumo Responsable y Tolerante), including the prominent lawyer Juan Francisco Torres Landa who is partner in the firm Hogan Lovells BSTL.
Why did they bring their case to the Supreme Court?
The so-called war against drug cartels ―launched by former President Felipe Calderón and continued by the current one, Enrique Peña― has prompted a humanitarian crisis leaving thousands of people displaced and over 100, 000 killed. According to CNN between 2006 and 2012, 60,000 people were killed in drug-related violence. The ongoing bloodshed has led activists to demand a new approach in the drug policy, considering the consumption or marijuana is not illegal in some parts of the neighboring United States of America and hoping legalization could spur a cease fire and bring the hostilities to an end.
Does it mean it is legal to smoke marijuana in Mexico now?
The Court’s ruling does not imply marijuana is now legal nationwide but can be considered a first step towards a less-restrictive legal framework regarding marijuana and possibly other drugs now considered illegal. Other marijuana users could follow the trail set by SMART and Mr. Torres Landa, using this precedent to ask for the courts’ protection and receive similar permits to grow their own weed or mota as it is popularly known in Mexico.
Ultimately it will be the law-makers’ responsibility to amend the criminal and health codes to be consistent with the Supreme Court’s criteria and interpretation of the fundamental right to development and welfare. President Peña ―who has opposed decriminalizing marijuana― already said he will be respectful of the Court’s decision.
What about the “war” on drugs and the armed conflict?
This newfound drive in the legalization debate and the impending reforms that should follow come a few weeks after the Mexican Navy launched an aggressive operation ―in a region dubbed the “Golden Triangle” in the northwest of the country― to recapture the country’s most wanted drug lord Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán, causing hundreds of people to be internally displaced and damaging private property. Earlier this year “Chapo” (which means shorty) Guzmán broke out of an alleged maximum security prison for the second time, sparking suspicion about his connections with public officials (some of them now incarcerated) and the ability of Mexican government to deal with drug kingpins facing trial.
November 5th, 2015.