CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports from Mexico City from people on all sides of the argument.
Mexico took a major step toward the legalization of marijuana late last month, when the country’s Supreme Court ruled that its prohibition is unconstitutional.
While the ruling has not legalized marijuana in Mexico, the country’s top judicial authority ruled that individuals who consume the drug cannot be prosecuted.
Meanwhile, the party of Mexico’s president-elect – Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who takes office next month — has submitted legislation in Congress to legalize and regulate marijuana’s use, possession and sale.
These are major developments in a decades-old debate in Mexico around personal liberties, and how to tackle organized crime.
“When I buy cannabis for my product, I have to buy it from illegal sources,” says Marcos, a Mexico City drug dealer who sells a fortified marijuana ‘dabs’ product to his clients. “So if cannabis becomes regulated, the money that arrives in the coffers of organized crime, will now go directly to our own country’s treasury.”
As part of the narcotrafficking chain, Marcos says impending legalization is sure to impact on his side of the business. “Now I know how Al Capone felt at the end of prohibition in America!” he joked.
The Supreme Court ruling resulted from a case brought by an organization called Mexico United Against Crime. It’s led by Juan Torres Landa, who put his own career on the line with a daring strategy.
“Analyze this from a legal perspective: we are entitled to certain rights, including self-determination, and so we should be owners of our own body and our own decisions, and the state should have no say as to what we do with our body, provided we don’t affect third parties,” he told CGTN, explaining his organization of top lawyers’ strategy to push their goals through the country’s legislature.
“We set up a cannabis club, we knew that the permit would be denied, and it happened. And the way in which the permit was denied enabled us to file the constitutional challenge with the federal judicial authority.”
And beyond personal rights, Torres Landa sees a bigger benefit to marijuana legalization: A means to challenge organized crime – and its use of murder, kidnapping and extortion to terrorize Mexico.
“Unless we derail them, and eliminate the financial funding, all those diversified activities are just going to grow and grow, because nothing is stopping them from doing so,” he said.
Still, there are constituent groups that oppose legalization – and paint a disastrous picture of a society with easy and legal access to drugs. Marci Mendoza, from the country’s National Union of Parents spoke in no uncertain terms to CGTN about what he thought about the possibility of marijuana legalization.
“The perception of the risks drop, and consumption goes up. Experts tells us that the younger a person becomes addicted to marijuana, the greater the damage caused.”
If Mexico ultimately legalizes recreational cannabis, it would join just Canada and Uruguay to do so on a national level. Unclear… is whether such a change here would bring the theoretical end to the violence that the movement’s leaders seek.