Mexico to debate marijuana legalization in January

A girl makes a joint during a rally in front of the Supreme Court of Justice in Mexico City on October 28, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yuri Cortez)

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexico will open in January a national debate on overhauling its marijuana laws, the interior minister said Wednesday, weeks after the Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing pot.

The top court's landmark ruling in November forced President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration to consider whether to decriminalize marijuana in a country that has a endured years of brutal drug cartel violence.

The government will launch a website in the beginning of 2016 that will publish scientific and academic papers to provide information on the topic to the public, said Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.

A series of public debates will begin in the third week of January with medical and legal experts as well as academics and members of civil society to discuss the "implications of marijuana use," he told a news conference.

"To be effective, we must consider the different alternatives as well as the costs, benefits and viability of each of them and their impact on the population," he said.

"Mexico will have to decide in the next months which policy it will need to face a phenomenon that affects different areas and aspects of the lives of millions of Mexicans."

Five debates will be held in different regions of the country.

They will focus on the health implications of pot; the potential regulations and their costs; the effect that decriminalizing marijuana could have on violence; and whether consuming it is a human right.

The Supreme Court authorized a group of four people to grow and consume their own marijuana for recreational use, creating a potential precedent for others seeking similar permits.

Pena Nieto said he could consider changing his anti-legalization stance depending on the outcome of the national debate. The Congress is expected to hold its own hearings on the matter.

Legalization supporters argue that decriminalizing marijuana would strip drug cartels of a major source of revenue and reduce violence.