Mexico’s Supreme Court has effectively decriminalised cannabis in a new ruling that has classed cannabis prohibition as “unconstitutional“.
On Monday, the court ruled that the sections of Mexico’s general health law that prohibit the use of cannabis cannot be enforced. While this doesn’t completely legalise cannabis, it does decriminalise cannabis possession by individuals.
As a result of the ruling, Mexican citizens will be allowed to grow their own cannabis if they successfully obtain a license from the country’s health secretariat. Each person will be permitted to have up to 5 grams of cannabis, which is worth roughly $75 in Australia. The law change does not affect the sale and distribution of cannabis, which is still illegal.
On Tuesday, Zara Snapp, the co-founder of thinktank Instituto RIA, told The Guardian that decriminalising cannabis is still a “step forward” for Mexico.
This is a step forward for the rights of cannabis users. But there’s still work to be done in congress to be able to regulate the market in a socially just way.
While the wheels of change have previously turned slowly in Mexico, the Supreme Court vote was heavily favoured decriminalisation – with the votes falling 8-3. The ruling is the result of ongoing campaigning by cannabis legalisation advocates and lawmakers.
Mexico has now been on the cannabis law reform path for six years. The Supreme Court first started allowing people to grow cannabis in 2015 after four people received injunctions. In 2017, the court first ordered Mexico’s congress to draft cannabis legalisation laws. Since then, Congress has been granted two extensions for the laws as lawmakers have struggled to agree on the bill’s terms.
In 2019, Mexico’s Supreme Court also ruled that completely banning recreational cannabis is unconstitutional, arguing that adults have the right to “decide – without any interference – what kind of recreational activities they wish to carry out.” Though this may seem similar to this week’s Supreme Court ruling, the 2019 ruling left it up to parliament to enact changes. As parliament missed their deadline to do so, the Supreme Court decriminalised cannabis themselves this week.
Once Mexico has fully legalised cannabis, it will become the world’s third-largest recreational cannabis market (after Uruguay and Canada). Advocates for cannabis laws also believe legalisation will reduce the size of Mexico’s cannabis black market.