Mexico joins Uruguay, Canada, and the U.S. down the road towards individual freedom. As regulations on the use of recreational marijuana were rendered unconstitutional across the whole country, Mexico shifts its strategy against drug cartels and violence stemming from cannabis criminalisation.
The Road Towards Freedom
Mexico acknowledges individual responsibilities regarding cannabis consumption by a historic 8-3 Supreme Court vote. Civic and state responsibility will become the latest allies in the war on drugs and the fight against user criminalisation. By a supermajority vote of 8 out of 11 justices, the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice, in full session, ruled unconstitutional the prohibition set forth by the General Health Act on the recreational use of cannabis.
“Today is a historic day for freedoms. After coming a long way, the Supreme Court has upheld the right to the free development of personality regarding recreational use of marijuana” stressed president of the Mexican Supreme Court Arturo Zaldivar, during his statement on June 28th.
Since 1920, when nation-wide prohibition came into force, Mexico has been ravaged by violence, as was the case of other countries of the region, such as Colombia. After 15 years of military operations in the country and severely punishing drug-related offences, the outcome is clear: cartels flourish and their business expands. As a result, calls for a shift in policy are stronger and stronger. Today Mexico—one of the biggest cannabis producers and suppliers worldwide—has turned towards civic responsibility and intends to take power back from drug cartels, which have evolved over the years into transnational companies operating in other areas apart from drug trafficking.
What Does the New Legislation Say?
Sections 235 (last paragraph), 237, 245 (first subsection), 247 (last paragraph) and 248 of the General Health Act prohibit any actions related to the cannabis plant, such as growing, harvesting, manufacturing, producing, setting up, acquiring, possessing, buying and selling, transporting by any means, prescribing, supplying, employing, using, consuming, and others.
By virtue of this decision, the Mexican Congress must repeal these five sections. Meanwhile, under a Congress bill—also upheld by Supreme Court justices—the Secretary for Health, through the Mexican Federal Commission for Protection against Health Hazards (COFEPRIS, by its Spanish acronym), will be required to issue licences to overage adults for using and possessing marijuana for recreational purposes.
This means that such a decision removes the condition that marijuana be exclusively used for medical or scientific purposes and avoids criminalisation of recreational users.
The Court’s decision confers authority over the Secretary for Health and COFEPRIS to define specific regulations governing licences for individual use, but most importantly, this implies a clear criticism against the Mexican Congress, which failed to legislate on the matter even though the Supreme Court had requested this on many occasions since 2019. 2015 was the first time a remedy against the prohibition on recreational cannabis was sought using the special amparo procedure, which entails raising a constitutional issue, and medical use became legal in 2017.