Mexico's President Proposes Relaxing Limits on Personal Marijuana Use

Mexico Cannabis Latin America
A man smokes a joint as he holds a banner reading "Legalize it" during a 420 dance party to demand legalisation and to celebrate marijuana culture outside the Senate building in Mexico City, in this May 3, 2014. Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto has pledged to relax limits on personal marijuana use. Reuters/Tomas Bravo/Files

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Thursday that he will submit a bill to Congress that would seek to legalize medical marijuana and increase the allowed quantity of cannabis that can be consumed for personal use by more than 20 grams.

The new law, if passed, would stop "criminalizing consumption" of the drug, a U-turn for Nieto as he had previously opposed moves towards legalization. It would raise the amount that users could carry from five grams to 28, equivalent to an ounce of cannabis.

The move would also free those who have been imprisoned for the possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana and it would also permit the use and importation of cannabis-based medications.

"We, Mexicans, know all too well the range and the defects of prohibitionist and punitive policies, and of the so-called war on drugs that has prevailed for 40 years,'' he said.

"Our country has suffered, as few have, the ill effects of organised crime tied to drug trafficking," he added. "Fortunately, a new consensus is gradually emerging worldwide in favour of reforming drug policies. A growing number of countries are strenuously combating criminals, but instead of criminalising consumers, they offer them alternatives and opportunities."

In Latin America, countries are divided over cannabis policy, with Cuba and Venezuela outlawing any possession of the drug while Uruguay has made it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana.

The latter country has also established a regulated market where pharmacies can sell marijuana, in a bid to prevent criminal gangs profiting from the drug and stemming drug violence. Tens of thousands have died of drug violence in Mexico and Nieto's plan is also being viewed as an attempt to stem this problem, as well as boosting his record-low approval ratings.