Recreational Pot Ban Unconstitutional, Mexican Top Court Says in Definitive Ruling

November 1, 2018, 11:55 AM UTC

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled for the fourth and fifth times Wednesday that blanket bans on recreational use of marijuana are unconstitutional. While the rulings do not immediately legalize recreational use, they do set a precedent that other courts must now follow in any individual cases. In Mexican law, it takes five rulings on an issue to establish a firm precedent.

The court established that the fundamental right to free personal development allows adults to elect their own forms of recreation, including personal use of marijuana. The ruling added that it did not authorize individuals to commercialize marijuana or use other narcotics and that the right to recreation is not absolute–the government can still regulate how people use marijuana. Until such rules exist, individuals in Mexico will need to request a judge’s court order to exercise the ability to use recreational marijuana (story in Spanish).

The ball is now in the court of Mexico’s congress, which changes hands next month to the Morena party, to issue updated laws and regulations for the personal use of marijuana. Morena officials have expressed openness to legalizing marijuana in an update to Mexico’s long drug war.

Mexico’s health regulator, Cofepris, has been discussing rules for legal production of marijuana-based substances since at least last year, to enable the use of medical marijuana, which has been legal since 2017. The agency is behind schedule on issuing its rules (story in Spanish) and as of last month a Cofepris official noted that such products will have to meet strict regulatory requirements similar to pharmaceutical drugs (story in Spanish).

Earlier this year, legal sales of recreational marijuana began in Canada and the top South African court struck down limits on recreational marijuana, the latter partly on privacy grounds. Uruguay legalized medical marijuana in 2013, with sales beginning last year.