Mexico’s Supreme Court made a monumental decision today that could lay the groundwork for a legalization movement with some serious traction. The vote by the Supreme Court’s criminal chamber ruled that individuals have the right to cultivate cannabis for personal use.
Mexico decriminalized the personal use and possession of up to five grams of cannabis in 2009. As a result, law enforcement has considered cannabis a low priority despite the country being on the front lines of the War on Drugs since 2006. Growing and selling cannabis remains a crime, and officials have begun to see the paradox of trying to incarcerate small-time growers and farmers of cannabis that is headed towards the United States, where it is legal or decriminalized across the majority of the U.S.
Although the use of marijuana by Mexicans is estimated to be fairly low, casual cannabis users are vulnerable to extortion by law enforcement. Catalina Pérez Correa González, a law professor at Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas in Mexico City, emphasized the point:
"There is an enormous institutional and social cost to enforcing the laws against marijuana. How many resources are being used up to reduce these low-impact crimes?"
This ruling may allow law enforcement to focus on more serious, violent crime, such as murder, kidnapping, and violent assault, and lessen the penalties against low-level, nonviolent drug offenders.
Is legalization coming to Mexico? Not just yet, but this ruling may lay the framework for the future.