On Wednesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court established a legal precedent for the adult-use of marijuana, as they officially declared cannabis prohibition a violation of Mexicans’ constitutional rights. The decisions send a clear message to the country’s Congress to create legislation for adult-use. Despite the news, Mexicans celebrated cautiously; unsure of how and when the legal victory will guarantee their rights to cultivate, sell, and consume.
The path to legalization in Mexico has been a rollercoaster. These rulings, however, constitute a high point for Mexican cannabis activists. It’s been three years since eight-year-old epilepsy patient Graciela Elizalde won the right to use marijuana to treat her condition, after her attorney successfully argued for an amparo, or federal injunction. In Mexico, though, five successful amparos are required to change the law. (In America, that means five similar Roe versus Wade cases would be necessary to grant citizens the right to legal abortion.)
To achieve this, pro-cannabis citizens embarked on a drawn-out bureaucratic mission, ultimately leading to two more amparos. And finally, on Oct. 31, Supreme Court judges ruled in favor of two more amparos. Like the previous cases, it was ruled that cannabis prohibition stands in the way of the right all Mexicans have to freely develop their personality and access to the preferred methods of doing so.
“From now on, depenalization is a fact,” said Senator Olga Sánchez Cordero, the president’s secretary of the interior. Sánchez Cordero, who’s an adamant critic of cannabis legalization, clarified to reporters that for now only the citizens who filed amparos are allowed to cultivate and consume. The federal government, she said, is now “on the road” to developing cogent regulations that will extend to the rest of the Mexican population.
“Ideally, Congress will legislate so that personal consumption of marijuana would be regulated,” said Arturo Zaldívar, the Supreme Court Judge, soon after the court’s decision was announced.
Though passing significant pro-marijuana legalization may have been an unrealistic expectation for past Mexican Congresses, López Obrador’s Morena, the president-elect, has given cannabis advocates hope for adult-use regulations. In the past, President Felipe Calderon’s War on Drugs contributed to 170,000 murders and 30,000 kidnappings in the last 10 years. President Enrique Peña Nieto has spoken out at the UN against prohibition, but ultimately showed tepid support–even opposition–to legalization legislation that’s been proposed.
Given the complex legal structures on which the amparo process is based, it’s no surprise people are still wrapping their heads around this. It should be noted that this doesn’t mean Mexicans are free to light up in front of police officers — or start snapping photos of their home grows for social media.
But in terms of prohibitionist politics, the country’s Supreme Court judges are confident those days are likely over. “The world is going in that direction [of legalization],” Zaldívar said. “I think that when we announced the first [approval of cannabis amparo] it was very polemic, very controversial. But time and history are proving that we were right, fortunately.”
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