Court Ruling Could Pave Way For Marijuana Legalization In Mexico

The country's Supreme Court has ruled that a cannabis club can grow weed for personal use.

Mexico’s Supreme Court voted 4 to 1 on Wednesday that members of a cannabis club are allowed to grow marijuana for their personal use, a potentially significant blow to laws restricting drug use in the country.

The club members -- Josefina Ricarño, Armando Santacruz, José Pablo Girault and Juan Francisco Torres Landa Ruffo -- had applied for a license from Mexico's drug regulatory office, but were denied. They appealed that denial to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the four members were allowed to grow, transport and use marijuana for recreational purposes.

Although the decision does not legalize marijuana across Mexico, it could provide a legal path for advocates and groups who oppose marijuana prohibition to continue challenging restrictions in the future. It sets the stage for a wide-ranging challenge to laws restricting marijuana by finding that prohibiting the recreational consumption of weed contradicts constitutional guarantees of personal freedom.

"This vote by Mexico’s Supreme Court is extraordinary for two reasons: it is being argued on human rights grounds and it is taking place in one of the countries that has suffered the most from the war on drugs," Hannah Hetzer, senior policy manager of the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. "Now with this landmark decision out of Mexico, it is clear that the Americas are leading the world in marijuana reform."

Marijuana use remains controversial in Mexico, however. A survey released in October by Mexican pollster Parametría found that only 20 percent of Mexicans favored legalizing marijuana for recreational use, though some 81 percent said they supported legalizing it for medical use. Only 4 percent of respondents said they would smoke weed if it were legal.

It’s the latest in a series of shifts in the Americas away from past policies of the war on drugs, violence from which has killed an estimated 100,000 people in Mexico since 2006.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana in the U.S. Another two states and Washington, D.C., joined them two years later. Uruguay legalized marijuana in 2013 and moved to create the world’s first national marijuana marketplace, but there have been some hold-ups. Earlier this year Chile harvested its first crop of government-approved medical marijuana. And in what was seen as a significant rejection of a key American tactic to fight against the growing of cocaine in Latin America, the government of Colombia halted aerial fumigation of the country’s illegal coca fields, the plant used to make cocaine, on fears that the spray was linked to causing cancer. And just last month, Justin Trudeau was elected as Canada's new prime minister on a promise to end marijuana prohibition in the country.

This article has been updated with comment from the Drug Policy Alliance.