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Peña Nieto's Take on Supreme Court's Marijuana Ruling

November 9, 2015

In a 4 to 1 vote on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, Mexico's Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of the consumption and cultivation of marijuana for personal use is unconstitutional.

Mexico City - Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said he recognizes and will respect last Wednesday's ruling by Mexico's Supreme Court that growing, possessing and smoking marijuana for recreation is legal under the right to freedom - adding that he has given his government orders to explain to Mexicans the scope of the ruling.

"This will open up the debate over the best regulation for inhibiting drug consumption, a public health issue," he tweeted in response to the ruling. "This does not mean that you can freely commercialize, consume or cultivate marijuana," Pena Nieto said later, adding that raids to destroy illegal marijuana crops would continue apace.

The measure was approved in 4-1 vote on the five-justice panel, backing the argument that smoking marijuana is covered under the right of "free development of personality."

The ruling did not approve the sale or commercial production of marijuana, nor does it imply a general legalization. At this point, the ruling covers only the plaintiffs of a single case, the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use, whose Spanish acronym spells "SMART." But if the court rules the same way on five similar petitions, it would then establish the precedent to change the law and allow general recreational use.

"No one has said at all that marijuana is harmless. It is a drug and, as such, it causes damage," said Justice Arturo Zaldívar, who wrote the majority opinion. "What is being resolved here is that total prohibition is a disproportionate measure."

Zaldívar went on to say that the November 4th ruling would forbid smoking marijuana in front of others without their consent. It is unclear whether public consumption, even by the few people covered by the case, could still be regulated under public nuisance codes.

An October opinion survey by the Parametria polling firm said that roughly 77 percent of Mexicans oppose marijuana legalization. On the other hand, that number has decreased since 2008, when it stood at 92 percent. Not only that, but Mexicans are far more open to the drug's use for medicinal purposes, with 81 percent in support - or 33 percent more than the firm's last poll on the subject in January 2014.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.