A Wave Of Marijuana Reform Is Rolling Through the Americas, And Mexico's Next

By Zachary Siegel 11/05/15

Is marijuana use a human right? Mexico seems to think so.

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By a 4-to-1 vote, the long-standing prohibition of the consumption and cultivation of marijuana for personal use was ruled unconstitutional in a landmark Supreme Court decision in Mexico.

The Court determined that strict bans on marijuana are a violation of human rights. In a country that has suffered endlessly from the War on Drugs, such an argument holds tremendous weight.

"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.

While the ruling does not trump current drug laws, analysts are saying it has the potential to be followed up by legislation that would make recreational use of marijuana legal. This decision reflects the dramatic sea-change occurring in Mexico and throughout the America’s, to roll back the damaging War on Drugs.

Mexico has some of the most conservative drug laws in Latin America. But due to the advocacy from multiple policy reformists, a growing number of voices are being heard, calling into question those punitive, and largely ineffective policies. 

Sanchez argues this ruling indeed opens the door for potential reform.

"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,” she said. “This could give citizens the possibility to cultivate marijuana for personal use without having to turn to the underground market."

Though the destruction of the drug war is visible all over Mexico, there is still a divide when it comes to the legalization of drugs. Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto remains staunchly against any change to drug policy so the battle to legalize marijuana there has only just begun.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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