Mexico senator proposes legalizing medical marijuana

Sofia Miselem
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People demonstrate for and against the decriminalization of marijuana in front of the Supreme Court of Justice in Mexico City on November 4, 2015

People demonstrate for and against the decriminalization of marijuana in front of the Supreme Court of Justice in Mexico City on November 4, 2015 (AFP Photo/Alfredo Estrella)

Mexico City (AFP) - A Mexican senator introduced a bill to authorize medical marijuana, as a new poll showed support for such legislation but opposition to broader legalization following a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

The court opened the door to legalizing cannabis last week when it authorized four people to grow pot for their personal, recreational consumption.

The ruling had the effect of kickstarting a national discussion on whether Mexico should legalize marijuana in a country that has endured a decade of brutal violence perpetrated by drug cartels.

While President Enrique Pena Nieto opposes legalization, he said on Monday that his government will convene medical experts and sociologists to debate the issue and decide whether to craft legislation to regulate marijuana use.

Senator Cristina Diaz, of Pena Nieto's centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), took the first step in Congress, proposing legislation that would allow imports of cannabis-based medicine and its consumption.

"I am not talking about legalizing marijuana. I am talking about the possibility that Congress will authorize imports of this type of medicine," Diaz told the Senate.

"The debate must be around the medical benefits of using cannabis, which is something that has grown in the United States, Britain, Germany and elsewhere," she said.

Her proposal came a month after an eight-year-old epileptic girl named Grace became the first person in Mexico to be authorized to use medical marijuana following a legal battle.

Grace began her cannabidiol treatment last month in the hope of stopping 400 daily seizures. The health ministry had indicated that her case was an exception to the law after a court ruled in her favor.

Diaz said her legislation would benefit some 5,000 people in Mexico.

- Mexicans approve medical marijuana -

A poll published by El Universal newspaper showed that while two-thirds of Mexicans oppose legalizing marijuana, 79 percent are in favor of its medical use.

The survey also showed that 63 percent are in favor of a debate on whether to end the country's marijuana prohibition.

The telephone poll was taken on November 6 and 7 among 1,000 adults, two days after the Supreme Court ruling.

The survey, which has a 3.1 percentage point margin of error, showed that 60 percent of Mexicans disagreed with the court's decision, which could set a legal precedent if the justices issue four more similar rulings.

A poll in October by the Parametria polling firm -- before the court's decision -- showed that 77 percent opposed legalizing marijuana.

Supporters of legalization argue that allowing citizens to grow and smoke their own pot would take a major source of cash away from drug cartels and help reduce the country's brutal gang turf wars.

But the survey showed that 63 percent of Mexicans do not believe that violence and impunity will decrease in Mexico if pot is made legal.

The moves in Mexico are part of a growing debate in the region on legalizing marijuana.

Uruguay has created a regulated market for pot, while Chile's Congress is considering a bill to legalize its recreational and medical use.

In the United States -- the biggest consumer of drugs from Mexico -- 23 states and Washington, DC now allow medical marijuana, while four states plus the US capital have legalized pot for recreational use.