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In the spirit of 4/20, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, made a timely announcement during the UN Drug Policy Summit in New York. He suggested that Mexico will support cannabis legalization for medical, scientific and research purposes.

Nieto is the first Mexican president to make such bold recommendations. His views were strictly limited to medicinal benefits without consideration for recreational use. “The participants in the forums also spoke about the importance of increasing, in accordance with international standards, the amount of marijuana that can be considered for personal use with the goal of decriminalizing consumers,” highlighted the President Nieto.

Mexico’s New Views on Cannabis

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At the moment, Mexican residents can legally possess up to five grams of marijuana without facing serious criminal charges (individuals may also hold up to 500 milligrams of cocaine or up to 40 milligrams of methamphetamine). Such laws were voted on and passed in 2009, which some considered to be the groundwork for legalization. Many have forgotten about Mexico’s shifting stance on marijuana, and in the past year there have been several organizations pushing for immediate legislative action.

Nieto’s latest announcement reiterates what the government has been planning all along- a slow rollout of new cannabis laws that are designed to protect local residents from Mexican cartels and underground trafficking. The leader’s timing in revealing his plans during the United Nations event was somewhat questionable, based on the institution’s conservative views on cannabis. Fortunately, he wasn’t alone in his beliefs, and other representatives, including Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith, voiced out similar concerns on outdated cannabis laws- referencing the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs during the meeting.

Cannabis Saving Lives

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Legalization will have a very different effect on Mexico, compared to the US. The country is currently plagued with violence from gangs, smugglers and notorious dealers. Instead of moving forward with its militarized approach in cracking down on illegal marijuana cultivation and consumption, Nieto hopes that a change in cannabis policies may curtail the country’s escalating problems surrounding large-scale drug operations.

“My country is one of the nations that have paid a high price, an excessive price, in terms of peace, suffering, human lives—the lives of children, young people, women and adults,” said Nieto. The Mexican drug war has claimed over 100,000 lives in the past decade. Furthermore, roughly 27,600 individuals have mysteriously disappeared due to conflicting wars between local cartel groups.

Cannabis legalization in the region may deter horrendous acts of kidnapping, assassinations and corruption that are commonly associated with the government’s lack of control over its own country. Nieto plans to reveal his intentions to legalize marijuana in greater detail in the coming days. A report from Reuters highlighted that a Mexican senator from Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party said that a medical marijuana bill might be approved by May.

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