On November 4, Mexico’s Supreme Court made a landmark—and highly controversial—decision, declaring that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. The ruling applies only to a single cannabis club that filed the suit, but may have initiated a domino effect that will pave the way for eventual marijuana legalization.
According to The New York Times, the decision does not strike down Mexico’s current drug laws, which are very strict in regard to substance abuse. However, it shines a light on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of those laws in not only curbing drug use—which has skyrocketed in Mexico in the last decade—but reducing violence perpetrated by the cartel manufacturers and distributors of those drugs.
Mexico very quietly decriminalized drug use in 2009, allowing for the possession of 0.5 grams of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, and 40 milligrams of methamphetamines, and slightly more than 5 grams of marijuana without penalty. Many doubted how this would result in more successful prosecutions of drug traffickers. In July 2014, The Research Consortium on Drugs and the Law, which analyzes government responses to illicit drug use across eight Latin American countries, released a study [http://www.drogasyderecho.org/assets/full-report-english.pdf] that showed:
Latin American governments overwhelmingly favor criminal justice approaches to drug use over health-oriented policies, even in countries that have decriminalized use and possession. Drug users in Mexico, therefore, continue to be criminalized, and extremely harshly as anything above the legal threshold but under 1,000 times that amount deems them to be small-time traffickers in the eyes of the law. Any possession that exceeds 1,000 times the limit is then considered large-scale trafficking, and the person will be subjected to the severest drug sentencing possible.
In the case of this Supreme Court decision in Mexico, only four people are currently affected—the ones who brought the suit on behalf of the cannabis club. According to BuzzFeed News, four out of five ministers who heard the case reportedly ruled in favor, meaning that a legal precedent has been set. Under the rules of Mexico’s legal system, if four similar cases are brought to Court and the judges rule in favor each time, then all judges in the country will have to issue similar rulings in future cases. However, this doesn’t mean a change in federal drug law, as only the Mexican president and Congress can make that happen.
The suit went through several court appearances before appearing before the highest court in Mexico. It was built on the idea that prohibiting people from smoking marijuana deprives them of freely developing a personality and therefore violated the Constitutional right to a dignified life. However, it eventually evolved into the standard debate over the benefits versus harm to overall society, and the potential impact on the nation’s drug war.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.