Mexico's Supreme Court Ruling Paves Way For Precedent On Marijuana Legalization

Nov 5, 2015
Originally published on November 6, 2015 3:01 pm
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A majority of Mexicans oppose legalizing drugs in their country so yesterday's ruling by the country's Supreme Court legalizing marijuana use took many by surprise. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: While the High Court did legalize the growing and smoking of marijuana in Mexico on a 4-1 vote, the ruling only pertains to four people, the plaintiffs in the case. That's for now. There are at least five other cases pending before the Supreme Court, and similar rulings could set a precedent and open the door to widespread legalization. Supreme Court Minister Arturo Zaldivar, speaking to Milenio TV, says he hopes the ruling will start people talking.

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ARTURO ZALDIVAR: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "This ruling should serve as a pretext to analyze and debate how and when to regulate this drug," he says. Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto opposes legalization but says he welcomes a countrywide debate. The president's opposition to legalization is right in step with most Mexicans. In a survey done just last week by the firm Parametria, 77 percent surveyed say they oppose making pot legal. A majority even oppose making medical marijuana legal. Legalization proponents have a tough road ahead of them. First, not many Mexicans actually light up. Some surveys say as low as 2 percent of the population smokes pot. And the argument that legalization will reduce drug violence is losing ground with some security experts. Many point to the fact that marijuana sales only account for a fraction of cartel profits. Couple that with growing competition from high-quality pot farms in U.S. states where marijuana is now legal, and experts say more and more Mexican drug gangs are just getting out of the marijuana business. Unfortunately, they're moving over to meth and heroin production, as use of both drugs is on the rise in the U.S.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.