There are countless American A-listers who support the right to puff, from Jack Black and Snoop Lion to Morgan Freeman and Willie Nelson. If California legalizes weed in 2014 or 2016, it could be on the back of jonesing movie stars voting to keep the government away from their Malibu stashes.

Marijuana Legalization and Mexican Culture

But they hardly have the market cornered on celebrity support for pot. A growing group of Latino stars is pushing for legalization south of the border – where, as it turns out, the true future of marijuana policy may lie.

Sixty-seven Mexican leaders, including actors, artists, politicians, attorneys and intellectuals, have signed a petition calling for full legalization of cannabis in that country. Mexico has long been plagued by extreme drug cartel violence, and an increasing number of current and former officials are turning to legalization or decriminalization as a possible solution.

Indeed, Latin America is already on the cutting edge of pot policy. Uruguay is well on the way to becoming the first nation in modern times to legalize and regulate marijuana for general consumption.

Using Pot As a Crime Reducer

The Mexican petition appeared in several daily newspapers. It was signed by film actors Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal; writers Javier Sicilia, Juan Villoro and Ángeles Mastretta; and former Secretary of Health Julio Frenk, among many others.

The celebrities who signed it noted that weed is much less addictive than tobacco, and less harmful than other drugs. Marijuana should be legalized to cut down on endemic crime, much of which is tied to illegal pot, they said.

“Criminalization increases the price of drugs,” and that extra money goes to criminal cartels, the petition says. “This exorbitant income is used to purchase weapons, pay hit men, and bribe public officials. Decriminalization would reduce that income, which is not replaceable by other organized crime activities (kidnapping, extortion and robbery).”marijuana-glass-jar

Push For Legalization

Legalization isn’t a popular idea in most of Latin America, but officials there are increasingly eyeing it as a potential means of dealing with runaway drug crime. In July, the Uruguayan House of Representatives passed a bill legalizing marijuana for all adult citizens. The legislation is expected to pass the Senate in October, and the president has said he will sign it.

Other countries in the region are watching Uruguay closely. Chile, for example, has already enacted complete decriminalization (you can’t make or sell weed, but you won’t get in trouble for smoking it). Colombian courts have already decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and cocaine.

And left-wing politicians are pushing for national legalization in Mexico as well. A more likely move there, however, is a proposal to decriminalize Mexico City, also known as the federal zone, and allow private cannabis clubs.

“Mexico has paid a high price for applying the punitive policy of prohibition,” the petition said. “We know well that neither decriminalization nor any other individual measure represents a panacea to end the violence, corruption and lawlessness in Mexico. But effective decriminalization of marijuana . . . is a step in the right direction.”

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