The Supreme Court of Mexico issued two rulings on Wednesday that effectively overturn the country’s ban on the recreational use of marijuana.
The rulings follow similar decisions in three previous cases, going back to 2015. Under Mexican law, five such decisions set a binding precedent 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,” according to Transform, a think tank that was part of the effort to overturn the ban. “The legalization of cannabis for adult personal use, possession, private cultivation, and sharing is therefore currently de facto (in practical effect), rather than de jure (formalized in law/legislation).”
In a news release translated by Transform, the court said 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.”
The right to the free development of the personality is a concept from the country’s constitution, amounting to something like a right to self-determination. As in previous cases, the court ruled this week that preventing individuals from using the drug violates their individual autonomy, particularly because marijuana use does not present enough risk to users or to others to justify keeping it outlawed. “The effects caused by marijuana do not justify an absolute prohibition on its consumption,” the court said.
The Mexican Congress now has 90 days to rewrite the nation’s drug laws to comply with the rulings, “at which point the reform will assume de jure status,” according to Transform. It remains unclear what Congress will do in response to the ruling. While it could set up a system involving taxation and commercial sales, it could also adopt a more limited approach that would make marijuana possession and use legal but not sales. That’s similar to the regulatory situation in Vermont and the District of Columbia.
The ruling in Mexico means that there is now a continuous line of legalization jurisdictions along the western coast of North America, running from north of the Arctic Circle to south of the Tropic of Cancer. Voters in North Dakota and Michigan will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana next week, while lawmakers in New Jersey hope to legalize marijuana through the state legislature by the year’s end.