Mexico is on the verge of legalising cannabis after lawmakers voted to permit recreational use in a step towards curbing the power of the country’s drug cartels and the narcotics-related violence.
The legislation backed by Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks almost certain to be approved after a 316-129 vote in Mexico’s lower house.
The move to allow people to carry up to one ounce or 28 grams of cannabis and grow up to eight plants at home for personal consumption would create what has been described as ‘the largest legal market in the world’ in a country of 126 million people.
It would make Mexico one of only a few countries, alongside Uruguay and Canada, to legalise cannabis for recreational use.
Lawmakers who supported the bill said it would ‘contribute to achieving peace’ following the deaths of more than 300,000 people in a bloody war with the cartels.
Supporters hope that creating a legal, regulated market will deprive the cartels of their market and empty prisons of small-time weed users.
‘Today we are making history,’ said Simey Olvera, a lawmaker from Lopez Obrador’s ruling Morena party who was wearing a mask with marijuana leaves printed on it.
‘With this, the false belief that cannabis forms part of Mexico’s serious health problems is left behind.’
But opposition parties have voiced fears that legalizing the drug would increase the ‘rate of consumption and addiction’ in the country.
However people caught with more than one ounce would face a fine, while larger quantities could still lead to jail time.