Mexico’s incoming government has announced a bill to legalize marijuana for recreational use as part of its ambitious plans to end the country’s war on drugs.

President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is determined to rewrite the rules of the drug war and use peaceful solutions to end it. He feels that a regulated cannabis industry would represent an important step in the right direction and the wheels are now in motion to achieve it.

Obrador’s choice for interior minister, Olga Sanchez Cordero, has introduced a bill to regulate marijuana for recreational, medicinal, and commercial purposes. It will be presented in Congress today and is expected to pass due to widespread support from across the political spectrum.

Medicinal marijuana is legal in Mexico, and the Supreme Court has declared that a ban on recreational use is unconstitutional. In five separate rulings it has determined that a ban on smoking weed impinges upon an individual’s constitutional right to effect personal development. All other courts are now obliged to follow that ruling and the government is also obliged to legalize recreational use.

Uruguay and Canada are the only countries to roll out a regulated cannabis industry, and Mexico could well be the third in the not-too-distant future. South Africa has permitted recreational use of cannabis, and low-level cultivation, but commercial operations are outlawed, so the country cannot benefit from taxing a regulated industry. Sanchez, a former Supreme Court magistrate, is seeking to avoid such a situation by permitting the commercialization of cannabis for recreational use.

Mexico has a population of 120 million people, so it would become the largest country to legalize cannabis. It would also mean that the United States’ northern and southern neighbours would both be running regulated industries, heaping further pressure on the US federal government to roll out a legalized cannabis industry.

Sanchez has posted the 26-page bill on the Mexican Congress website. It asserts that Mexico’s war on the illicit marijuana industry has contributed to crime, violence, and thousands of deaths. She claims it is impossible to eradicate the consumption of a substance as widespread as cannabis and that it is time to end the prohibition.

The bill will have to pass committees before reaching a vote in the country’s two-house Congress. It may face hurdles and challenges, but Obrador’s incoming government has a majority, and party whip could ensure it is pushed through. The bill would permit companies to grow and sell cannabis for recreational use. It would mean individuals do not need to endure lawsuits in order to have the right to smoke weed, and it would allow Mexicans to grow up to 480g a year for personal use, while they will be allowed to hold up to 20 plants at a time.

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