Mexico’s Supreme Court to Decide on Right to Consume and Cultivate Marijuana

Landmark Case Could Pave the Way for Marijuana Legalization

NEW YORK—(ENEWSPF)—October 27, 2015. On Wednesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court will debate whether the prohibition of the consumption and cultivation of marijuana for personal use is unconstitutional. The Court will determine whether the prohibition of the consumption of marijuana – and its cultivation for non-commercial ends – violates the human right to the free development of one’s personality. This landmark case could lead to the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes if followed up with legislation.

“This debate in Mexico’s Supreme Court is extraordinary for two reasons: because it is being argued on human rights grounds, and because it is taking place in one of the countries that has suffered the most from the war on drugs,” said Hannah Hetzer, Senior Policy Manager of the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance.

The public debate on marijuana has surged in Mexico in recent months since the case of an 8-year old girl with epilepsy who became Mexico’s first medical marijuana patient made national and international headlines. The government granted the right to import and administer a cannabis-based treatment for the young patient.

“It is unprecedented for the Supreme Court to introduce a human rights dimension to the debate on drug policy,” said Lisa Sanchez, Latin American Programme Manager for Transform Drug Policy Foundation and México Unido Contra la Delincuencia. “If the Court recognizes that the prohibition of marijuana consumption and cultivation for non-commercial purposes limits the right to the free development of one’s personality, it may determine that various articles in the General Health Act are unnecessarily punitive. This could would give citizens the possibility to cultivate marijuana for personal use without having to turn to the underground market.”

Marijuana reform has gained unprecedented momentum throughout the Americas. In the United States, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for adults. In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legally regulate marijuana. In Canada, the new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party have promised to legalize marijuana. There are currently medical marijuana legalization bills being debated in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico. 

Related Material:

Will Mexico say sí to weed legalization by the end of October?, By: Rafa Fernandez De Castro, October 23, 2015 —

Mexico’s Supreme Court next Wednesday will vote on a case that many think could set a precedent for widespread marijuana legalization in the country. But strangely enough, the forces behind Mexico’s weed-legalization efforts have little do with the greater criticism of a drug war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives over the past decade.

Instead, Mexican weed enthusiasts argue they have a basic human right to get high.

In 2013, Mexico’s first marijuana club, The Mexican Association for Responsible Self-Consumption and Tolerance (or SMART in Spanish), filed a legal petition demanding the right to cultivate, possess and consume marijuana for recreational purposes. The initial motion was denied, but SMART managed to appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court.

“We’re arguing that the government is infringing on the constitutional doctrine of the free development of personality,” SMART lawyer Andres Aguinaco told Fusion. He says their legal strategy is “different from the overall legalization debate, which focuses on drug war death tolls and disappearances.”

Aguinaco says the constitution protects the notion that an individual is free to use his or her best judgement concerning what’s best for their life and body, as long as it doesn’t infringe on other’s rights. “This applies to eating vast amounts of fast food and becoming obese, or spending your time smoking pot,” the lawyer said.

“The state cannot prohibit you from eating a bunch of tacos because it’s bad for your health,” Aguinaco explained. The government can take measures such as imposing a tax on sugary drinks and sodas to promote weight loss, but not necessarily ban consumption.

In the same vein, SMART thinks the government should run prevention or educational awareness campaigns rather than criminalizing the use of weed.

SMART likes their odds. Mexico’s Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage before the U.S. high court did, and has taken progressive positions on other issues such as abortion and transgender rights. One of the five justices, Arturo Zaldivar, has already stated he intends to rule in favor of the plaintiffs. “We’re optimistic since at least four of the five judges are known as liberal. All we need is a simple majority,” said Aguinaco.

There’s also some momentum. Last September, a Mexican judge authorized the use of medical marijuana in the case of an 8-year-old-girl suffering from a severe type of epilepsy.

A favorable ruling in the SMART case doesn’t mean marijuana will automatically become legal nationwide, but it will likely set a precedent or at least encourage a landslide of other appeals.

It’s hard to say how legalization would affect the drug cartels, but supporters of legalization say it would help reduce pot smokers from having to rely on criminals to score weed.

But some criminal groups are already adapting to legalization in the U.S. and the Mexican weed market is not that big. The government’s last drug use poll numbers estimate that only 5 to 6 million Mexicans consume marijuana in a country of approximately 120 million.

Perhaps most importantly, the move would help Mexico counter some of the contradictions of fighting a drug war led by a country that’s also moving to legalize marijuana itself. “There has been rumbling in Mexico ever since U.S. states like Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana. It was an obvious display of hypocrisy to have the leading country on the war on drugs turn around and legalize in its own territory,” Hannah Hetzer from the Drug Policy Alliance told Fusion.

Legalization won’t likely solve Mexico’s drug war problems, but it’s a symbolic measure by a country that has suffered greatly at the expense of U.S. drug policies and consumption.