On Wednesday, October 31st, Mexico’s Supreme Court handed down two decisions deeming the country’s recreational marijuana prohibition laws to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court “found that adults have a fundamental right to personal development which lets them decide their recreational activities without interference from the state,” according to the Associated Press.
In addition to three similar rulings between 2015 and 2017, the court has now reached this conclusion on recreational marijuana use for the fifth time. The number is significant, because when the Supreme Court reaches similar rulings in five separate cases, Mexico’s legal system applies the precedent across all of its courts.
“With the existence of five precedents in the same vein on the subject, the judgment will be mandatory for all courts in the country,” the Supreme Court noted in its latest conclusions.
So does that make recreational marijuana legal in Mexico? Not quite. The Supreme Court’s new standard mandates that the courts must allow recreational use, possession and growing — not commercialization or sales — but the laws regulating marijuana use haven’t changed, at least for now; individuals can still be arrested and face charges or fines, but they could then challenge the constitutionality of their case within the judicial system.
However, legalization advocates like Mexico United Against Crime (MUAC), which opposes prohibitionist drug policies, believe that by setting a new precedent, the Supreme Court has “open[ed] the door to regulation of cannabis.”
“The Supreme Court has done its job…. The responsibility for issuing the corresponding regulation falls on congress,” Lisa Sanchez, the group’s director general, said in a statement.
With the courts now required to treat adult recreational use as a right, not a crime, it makes more sense than ever for Mexico’s government to legalize and regulate cannabis. With billions of dollars being funneled into dangerous drug cartels, eliminating the black market for marijuana would help “improve conditions of justice and peace in the country,” Sanchez said.
According to Reuters, there have been murmurs that President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration supports legalization, and the Supreme Court’s ruling could make it a bigger priority. If Mexico were to legalize recreational marijuana, it would be only the third country, after Uruguay and Canada, to do so.