Mexico on path to decriminalize personal possession of drugs

Thursday, April 30, 2009

On Tuesday, April 28, the Senate of Mexico approved a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small quantities of psychoactive drugs for personal use, including marijuana and cocaine. The proposed law has the support of President Felipe Calderón. It awaits approval by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Mexico's legislature.

The tribune of the Mexican Senate.
Image: Senado de la República (Mexican Senate).

The bill, which passed with 87 votes and 10 abstentions, would make it legal to carry quantities up to 5 grams of marijuana, 500 milligrams of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, or 40 milligrams of methamphetamines for personal use. Those found with greater quantities or convicted of the intent to distribute or sell any quantity of the specified drugs face a sentence of 5–15 years of prison.

The Mexican Congress passed a similar bill in 2006, but it was vetoed by then-president Vicente Fox under pressure from the administration of former United States president George W. Bush.

The 2009 bill would authorize local authorities to investigate drug trafficking. Previously, the classification of drug trafficking as a federal offense prevented local authorities from enforcing drug laws and made it difficult to convict drug dealers: Mexico's federal courts are overwhelmed by bigger cases.

The bill would also offer voluntary treatment to drug addicts. Those detained three times for drug possession would be sent to a rehabilitation center for mandatory treatment.