MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Supreme Court ordered the government Monday to issue permits for the personal use of marijuana and for the growing of limited amounts of pot plants, after the country’s Congress took too long to approve a limited legalization law.
In 2019, the court ruled that prohibiting marijuana was unconstitutional, and gave lawmakers until this past April 30 to pass a law. In March, the lower house approved a marijuana legalization bill, but it bogged down in the Senate.
Under Monday’s court ruling, people who want to smoke marijuana or grow a few pot plants for their own use can ask for a government permit until some legislation is enacted. They would have to be adults, abstain from using marijuana around children and refrain from driving or engaging in other risky activities while under the influence.
Similar permits have existed since 2015, but are granted only to people who file for court injunctions. Under Monday’s ruling, the Health Department would be required to accept applications for permits from the general public.
Medicinal marijuana use has been legal in Mexico since 2017 and is allowed in a number of other Latin American countries. But only Uruguay allows recreational use of pot in the region.
The bill approved by the lower house in March would permit recreational use of marijuana, but establish a system of licenses required for the entire chain of production, distribution, transformation and sales.
It would also require that individuals, and not just associations of users, have a permit to grow plants for personal use. Each individual would be allowed to have six plants, with a maximum of eight per household.
Adults could use marijuana without affecting others or children, but if caught with more than one ounce (28 grams) they would be fined. They could face jail time if they had more than 12 pounds (5.6 kilograms).
Lawmakers favoring the bill say it will move the marijuana market out of the hands of Mexico’s powerful drug cartels to the government.
But experts fear transnational corporations will be the primary beneficiaries rather than consumers or the farmers who have formed the lowest rung of the marijuana production chain.