Mexico City Government considers the legalization of Cannabis

Mexico City government mulls legalisation of marijuana

Shops could be allowed to sell up to five grams of marijuana per person under an initiative that has the backing of the city’s Left-wing mayor

By Associated Press7:13PM GMT 14 Feb 2014

The Mexico City government is to consider legalising the sale of marijuana in the capital, allowing shops to sell the drug in amounts up to 5 grams under a plan backed by the city’s mayor Miguel Angel Mancera.

The initiative was proposed on Thursday by an assembly member from the ruling PRD, a left-wing party that has helped turn Mexico City into a liberal enclave with legalised abortion and gay marriage.

A woman smokes marijuana during a demonstration outside the Mexican Senate in Mexico City (EPA)

The bill is vague on many key points and faces legal hurdles that may be impossible to overcome but it creates at least the possibility of an island of legalisation of one drug in a nation that has been devastated by the fallout from the US-backed fight to stop the northbound flow of recreational narcotics.

If it is approved, the Mexico City legislature could find itself at odds with federal government. President Enrique Peña Nieto, of the centrist PRI party, is against drug legalisation, which he says will not reduce the violence that has killed tens of thousands over the last seven years

Most legislators in the Mexico City assembly haven’t said whether they back the proposal, but it has a strong chance of approval given the support of the city government’s leadership.

The initiative would allow stores in the city of 8 million to sell marijuana in amounts up to 5 grams. The bill envisages a limit on the cumulative amount that each business could sell, but doesn’t specify what that could be. Since 2009, Mexican federal law has allowed the possession of no more than 5 grams of marijuana, about four joints, for personal use, but it still requires the arrest of anyone caught buying or selling any amount.

The bill is silent on the number of stores that would be allowed, or how marijuana sales would be regulated, taxed and enforced.

The sponsors are also asking allies in the federal congress to push forward with a law that would legalize marijuana production throughout the country, effectively providing a source for any legal pot shops. That federal bill, which also proposes allowing Mexicans to legally possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, is almost certain to go nowhere in the national legislature, which is dominated by Mr Peña Nieto’s party and the conservative PAN.

The proposal in Mexico City’s assembly also doesn’t specify if it would allow only city residents to buy pot.
The bill’s sponsors acknowledged many details remain to be worked out, but called it an important step in fueling Mexican discussion about marijuana legalisation, a topic that has gained major momentum with the legalisation of sales in Colorado, Washington and Uruguay. Many Mexicans find it increasingly absurd that their country is spending money and law-enforcement effort to keep marijuana from crossing the northern border into a country where it is already legal for millions of people.

While the Mexico City bill would have little to no effect on the larger cross-border drug trade, sponsor Vidal Llerenas called it a move toward allowing authorities to focus on more serious crimes.

“Mexico needs to lead a discussion about how we can deal with drugs in a different way,” Mr Llerenas said.
The initiative “puts Mexico City in a leading position in Latin America,” said Jorge Castaneda, a former Mexican foreign minister. “Rather than continue fighting a war that makes no sense, now we are joining a cutting-edge process,” he added.

Mexico has seen a slight increase in drug use in the last few years, according to health authorities and marijuana remains the most commonly used drug.

Mexican Assistant Interior Secretary Roberto Campa said that so far there is no plan to challenge the initiatives, but stressed that both require a deeper analysis before their approval.

US President Barack Obama has said it is not his administration’s priority to prosecute marijuana use and has allowed the Colorado and Washington plans to proceed without federal action against them.

Uruguay last year became the first country to legalise the production and commercialisation of marijuana nationwide.

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