The Supreme Court of Mexico has ruled that smoking a J is a human right under the right to "free development of personality."

A man in Mexico smoking a joint. Photo: Alfredo Gayou

A man in Mexico smoking a joint. Photo: Alfredo Gayou

Undeniable proof that the war on drugs has failed came on Wednesday November 4 2015 when the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled that smoking cannabis was a human right guaranteed by the constitution under the right to “free development of personality.” This overruled the General Health Act, the federal law prohibiting cultivation and use of marijuana. The vote was four to one. People lit joints outside the court in celebration. There was chanting of “mota si, guerra no” – “weed, yes, war, no.”

While in the United States, the ruling would apply to everybody, in Mexico, it applies only to the plaintiffs in one case: an accountant, an activist and two lawyers who wished to establish a club for the growing and exchange of cannabis, Mexicans United for Responsible and Tolerant Consumption, which has an acronym of SMART in Spanish. The group has been filing cases since 2013, ultimately reaching the Supreme Court. But if similar rulings were made over five similar petitions, smoking cannabis recreationally would be legal for all. This is what came to pass when same sex marriage became constitutional.

Justice Arturo Zaldivar, who penned the majority opinion, declared, “No one has said at all that marijuana is harmless. It is a drug and, as such, it causes damage.” But total prohibition of smoking cannabis, he insisted, was “disproportionate.” He explained that pot could cause some harm when taken in large quantities, but then so do alcohol and tobacco, whose consumption is permitted but regulated.

Mot Schwartzman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, attested that an explicit law legalising cannabis could result – this is afoot in Congress, and those behind it will be “noting this case.” Another of the lawyers, Fabian Aguinaco, taunted that “This is like when you make a hole in a well. All the water pours out.” The President, Enrique Pena Nieto, tweeted that he would respect the ruling and explain its scope to the populace. His tweet continued that there would now be debate on the issue of legalisation of smoking cannabis.

Hannah Hetzer of the non-governmental organisation, Drug Policy Alliance, told the Washington Post that this case was “monumental.” She pointed out that Mexico has been “the epicentre of some of the worst effects of the war on drugs,” with more than 83,000 people killed from 2007 to 2014, per the government, which some analysts consider to be an understatement. The phrase, “war on drugs,” was popularised by the disgraceful US President, Richard Nixon, in 1971.

The largest encouragement for legalisation of smoking cannabis in Mexico, Hetzer affirmed, would be if the US state of California did so in 2016: “Washington and Colorado are one thing. But with California, with the significance it has and the border it shares with Mexico, if they legalise, it would be too much to ignore.”

In September, a Mexican judge permitted eight-year-old Graciela Elizalde to use cannabis for medical reasons. Elizalde suffers from Lennox-Gastaur syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. Laws covering cannabis are being relaxed in a number of countries: Peru, Portugal and Uruguay, not to mention some US states. Canada’s newly-installed Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has promised to strive to legalise marijuana there.

The Mexican case could provide a spur not only to these states, but to the United Nations, which will hold a session on drugs in 2016. Hetzer highlighted that if the UN didn’t become more amenable to people smoking cannabis, countries will do so unilaterally and UN conventions will grow irrelevant – “and nobody wants that.” Some within the UN favour legalisation – a document leaked from its Office on Drugs and Crime called for countries to consider decriminalisation of personal cannabis use. Legalisation is a not at all bad idea. In the United Kingdom, it would raise £600 million.

SMART’s Faceache page has received a deluge of requests for membership. It plans to expand.

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