Medical marijuana could soon become widely available in Mexico, while nationwide decriminalization of the drug could increase and prisoners held on minor cannabis charges could be released, President Enrique Pena Nieto said in April.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto

Pena Nieto announced he would send the Mexican Congress a bill to allow cultivation, import, and use of marijuana for medical use. The legislation would also raise the limit on how much pot adults can carry from 5 grams to 28 grams.

Cannabis is illegal in Mexico for any use, a policy that has long contributed to the crime and violence perpetuated by drug cartels. The president didn’t say whether he wanted to make it possible for adults to legally obtain the marijuana they would be allowed to carry.

In addition to decriminalization and the legalization of medicinal cannabis, Pena Nieto’s plan would lead to the release of large numbers of inmates held on simple marijuana offenses. But he declined to reveal further details on that part of his proposal, which could amount to a massive pardon.

Pena Nieto has reversed his position on cannabis reform

Pena Nieto has long opposed efforts to reform Mexico’s stringent anti-cannabis laws, making his new position a near-180 degree turnaround. That reversal reflects an increasing recognition in Latin America that cartel violence stems largely from refusal to legalize the drug.

“Our country has suffered the harmful effects of drug-linked organized crime,” he said. “Thankfully, a new global consensus is gradually gathering steam in favor of a reform to the international drug regime.”

Pena Nieto
Mexican Prime Minister Enrique Peña Nieto

The president’s proposal follows a landmark ruling by the country’s Supreme Court last November, which opened the door for a small group of plaintiffs to grow and use cannabis as medicine. The court’s decision could lead to full legalization of marijuana within the next few years.

Legislation to allow the import of marijuana

Mexico Marijuana FlagCristina Diaz, a lawmaker who belongs to Pena Nieto’s majority Institutional Revolutionary Party, followed the Supreme Court decision by introducing legislation to legalize the import of medical pot. Diaz said in January that her bill likely would be passed by May.

Latin America has increasingly moved toward marijuana reform in recent months, an approach that lawmakers hope will stem the tide of drug-related murders across the region. The small South American nation of Uruguay has completely legalized cannabis, though its reform laws have since stalled.

The same approach is being pursued in the English-speaking portions of North America. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won office last year in part on promises to legalize marijuana nationwide, and his government announced in April that it would introduce legislation to do so next spring.

Weed is already legal for any use in four U.S. states, including Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, along with the District of Columbia. The Huffington Post and other media report that reforms in the United States, Canada, and Mexico are good news for corporations that hope to enter the hugely lucrative marijuana industry.

That market could be worth nearly $2 billion a year by 2017, according to Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that serves the legal cannabis industry.

Let us know: When do you think Mexico will finally legalize marijuana? What effect do you think drug reforms will have on the nation’s cartel violence? Comment below.


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