1 November 2018
Mexican Supreme Court Ruling Means Recreational Cannabis is Now Legal for Adults
Yesterday (31 Oct) the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of cannabis was unconstitutional - as it violated the ‘fundamental right to the free development of the personality’. As the fifth such judgement, under Mexican law, this now means that it is binding on all judges nationally - effectively (de facto) legalising the personal use, possession, private cultivation, and sharing of cannabis amongst adults.
Steve Rolles - Senior Policy Analyst for Transform Drug Policy Foundation - said:
“Today's legalisation of cannabis in Mexico means you can now travel the entire West Coast of North America, from the Arctic circle in Canada, to the Mexican border with Guatemala, without leaving a legal cannabis jurisdiction.
“We congratulate our Mexican colleagues on a truly historic victory that can only serve to accelerate the much needed reforms in Mexico, the Americas and indeed Globally, as well as creating space for debate on the legalisation and regulation of other drugs.
“It’s time for governments, including in the UK, to acknowledge the fundamental failures of prohibition and the injustices of criminalising people who use drugs. They must follow the leadership being shown in Mexico and around the world, and bring an end to the ruinous war on drugs”
Background / Explainer
Yesterday witnessed judgements on 2 cases, following 3 similar judgements dating back to 2015 (see notes). All 5 judgments ruled that that prohibition of adult cannabis possession, use, and private cultivation was unconstitutional on human rights grounds. The previous judgements before today were only binding on the 10 plaintiffs concerned in those cases, but under Mexican law, a fifth such judgment becomes binding nationally.
This 5th judgement means that, while the cannabis prohibition law nominally remains in place for now (and arrests remain possible), all judges nationally are now bound by the Supreme Court judgement as a defense in the (now much less likely) scenario of prosecutions being brought. The legalisation of cannabis for adult personal use, possession, private cultivation and sharing is therefore currently de facto (in practical effect), rather than de jure (formalised in law/legislation).
Crucially, however, the decision also means that the Mexican Congress has 90 days to repeal and reform the law judged to be unconstitutional - at which point the reform will assume de jure status.
Explaining the judgement the Supreme Court said in a press release (as translated by Google); “In these matters, the First Chamber held that the fundamental right to the free development of the personality allows the persons of legal age to decide – without any interference – what kind of recreational activities they wish to carry out and protect all the actions necessary to materialize that choice,”....“Now, it was also clarified that this right is not absolute and that the consumption of certain substances could be regulated, but the effects caused by marijuana do not justify an absolute prohibition on its consumption.”
The judgement only covers personal possession, use, and home growing for personal use and sharing amongst adults. It does not cover commercial production and sale such as recently established in Canada, Uruguay and various US states. When the judgment becomes de jure formalised in legislation it is therefore likely to be closer to the ‘give and grow’ cannabis legalisation models adopted in the US state of Vermont, and the District of Columbia (see notes)
The new Mexican Government has, even before the judgement, openly expressed interest in cannabis legalisation and regulation - with senior officials recently discussing the issue on a formal visit to Canada (see notes)
The successive Supreme Court cases that led to yesterday’s historic victory have been led by Transform’s Mexico partner organisation Mexico Unido Contra Delincuencia (MUCD).
Notes to editors
Steve Rolles - Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation
Tel/whatsapp: +44 7980213943
If you would like to speak to the plaintiff in yesterday’s judgement or representative from MUCD, please use the UK contact above and we can connect you.
‘Give and Grow’ Cannabis policy in Vermont
Mexico’s 2015 SMART trial - the first of the five supreme court judgements
Mexico AMLO Government discuss cannabis legalisation on Canada visit