Mexico: Supreme Court OK's Marijuana Use in Step Towards Legalization

Marijuana Plant
A marijuana plant shown during a demonstration in support of the legalization of marijuana in Medellin, Colombia on May 2, 2015. REUTERS/Fredy Builes Fredy Builes/Reuters

Mexico's Supreme Court on Wednesday gave the green light to growing marijuana for recreational use in a landmark decision that could lead to legalization in a country with a bloody history of conflict with drug cartels.

Ruling on a case first brought in 2013 by an advocacy group denied permission by regulators to grow plants for recreational use, the court set a precedent by voting 4-1 that prohibiting people from growing the drug to consume it was unconstitutional.

The court's vote does not legalize marijuana consumption in Mexico, but more rulings of the same kind could set a legal precedent.

"If ... this supreme court is taking such an important step toward legalization of drugs, or at least some of them, I suggest that we are equally careful and responsible in crafting a ruling of the same magnitude," said Judge Jose Ramon Cossio, as he voted in favor of the measure, with caveats.

Outside the court, proponents of change in Mexico's drug laws celebrated the decision by lighting up joints.

Production and sale of marijuana is illegal in Mexico. Still, in 2009, the country made it legal to carry up to 5 grams (0.18 ounce) of marijuana, 500 milligrams (0.018 ounce) of cocaine and tiny amounts of heroin and methamphetamine.

Marijuana, along with cocaine and crystal meth, has been a major source of income for cartels blamed for more than 100,000 drug-related killings in Mexico since 2007.

Political pressure on Mexico to liberalize its stance on marijuana has been rising since the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado legalized possession and sale of the drug for recreational use in 2012.

In August, a lower court in Mexico granted a mother and father the right to import a marijuana-based medicine to treat their 8-year-old daughter's epilepsy.

Last year, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has so far resisted legalization, hinted that he was adopting a more liberal stance on marijuana, saying that Mexico and the United States could not pursue diverging policies on the issue.