You are here
Home > News > Mexican Supreme Court Issues Vague Support for Ending Prohibition

Mexican Supreme Court Issues Vague Support for Ending Prohibition

On May 11, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled in favor of “Édgar,” a young man facing prosecution for the last four years for cannabis possession. While he was absolved of his “crime,” the court failed to completely eliminate the criminalization of simple possession, ruling that it was not the police, but rather prosecutors and judges who should decide if possession is for personal use or not.

This was, at least according to some judges, a win. “The fact that the Public Prosecutor’s Office is allowed to initiate criminal proceedings against a person who possesses more than 5 grams of cannabis for personal consumption amounts to punishing moral qualities [and] personal behavior, which has no constitutional basis,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Juan Luis González Alcántara. “Criminal prosecution of the person who possesses cannabis in his or her private sphere, without affecting third parties or provoking a criminal incident, is not justified.”

Advocates argue that the Court has made a confusing and inconsequential ruling after many years of misbehaving. The ruling, according to advocates is contradictory in that it doesn’t entirely eliminate the criminal charge for personal possession. The ruling also allows the public prosecutor to decide whether to file charges. Even though people are not able to leave the house for as long as 48 hours, they are subject to police custody if they are arrested for possession. There were more preliminary and investigation files opened for simple cannabis possession in 2020 than for homicide.

What is the Pace of Reform Reform?

Court-watchers are also surprised by the decision. For the seven year period, the Mexican Supreme Court is the only court to make bold decisions on cannabis possession, usage, fundamental rights, and human liberties. The Mexican Supreme Court has issued most decisions, and has been the loudest of the three.

This decision was also taken shortly after Oaxaca City Council had voted to prohibit police from arresting marijuana users, provided they behave respectfully. Also, it comes at a time when the Mexican legislature still struggles to draft a cannabis law that was needed by the court.

The court’s decision, in other words, could be a reluctance on the part of the country’s top judges to dictate the amount that qualifies for personal possession—in this case 30 grams—to lawmakers as they consider how to proceed with a cannabis legalization bill.

The legislature, also despite court order, has only advanced the issue at a snail’s pace. This was supposed to be completed by December. The federal process is stuck at the federal level. The Mexican Congress might vote this year to legalize marijuana.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Mexican president, remains unclearly hesitant on this whole issue.

A continuing clash between the courts and the legislature

The battle in Mexico at the highest legal level has been going on since 2015, when the court ruled that sections of the country’s health law were invalid, by de facto legalizing the cultivation, possession, and use of cannabis. Last year, the court ruled that prohibitions against personal consumption are a guarantee of individual liberty. The earlier ruling did not include the 5-gram decriminalization measures in effect since 2009. Even though the maximum sentence for possession of greater quantities is three years, those in possession can still be sent to prison.

Mexican advocates had hoped for this solution as they move forward with the legislative process to adopt legislation.

Can the Mexican government approve recreational use this year?

It comes just five weeks after Israel legalized marijuana use. Mexico has been on the “cusp of legalization” at this point for seven years. Presumably, however, if either the United States or Germany passes legalization measures, it will also galvanize Mexico to finally decide its cannabis users’ fate by formal law rather than judicial decisions at the highest level.

This means that 2022 could be a record year for legalizing countries—and as a result, become a tipping point for global recreational reform.

This is sure to be an exciting and fascinating 8-month period on a worldwide basis.