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Mexican officials introduce bills seeking to relax marijuana laws

Laws and LegislationCrime, Law and JusticeMexico

MEXICO CITY – Lawmakers in Mexico introduced bills Thursday that would create marijuana dispensaries in the capital and increase the amount of the drug people across the country could carry for “personal use.”

The proposals to Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly and the federal legislature would amount to a partial “decriminalization” of marijuana, advocates said, not full legalization.

The Mexico City bill would instruct police and judges to deprioritize the prosecution of marijuana violations under some circumstances. It would create “dissuasion commissions” to which some violators could be sent for administrative sanctions, in lieu of the traditional criminal court process.

It would also direct the government to designate spaces in the city where marijuana could be sold without fear of prosecution under certain criteria, including offering consumers warnings about potential health risks.

The federal bill would allow for the use of medical marijuana, give states and the Mexico City government more say in setting drug policy, and increase the amount of marijuana allowed for personal use from 5 grams to 30. The bill would also raise personal limits for LSD, methamphetamine and cocaine.

“We believe we’re making a very important contribution to a global debate that has to do with rethinking the issue of drugs,” Vidal Llerenas, a member of the Mexico City Legislative Assembly and sponsor of the local legislation, said at a news conference.

The legalization debate has heated up in Mexico, and across Latin America, in recent months, amid dissatisfaction with the violent fallout from U.S.-backed prohibitionist policies in the hemisphere and the changing situation in the U.S., where Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana in 2012. American legalization advocates have also been working to put a legalization measure on ballots in Florida and California this year.

In Mexico, polls generally show weaker support for liberalizing marijuana laws than in the U.S., and the bills introduced Thursday face serious political challenges. The newspaper El Universal polled the 66 members of Mexico City’s legislature and found that only 11 openly expressed support for the bill. Thirty were against it, and the rest were either undecided or declined to state their preference.

Since passing a law decriminalizing the personal use of small amounts of drugs in 2009, the federal legislature has been reluctant to green-light other pot liberalization bills.

Mexico City is a bastion of social liberalism, having previously broken new ground for Mexico with the legalization of abortion and gay marriage.

Some observers this week criticized the local marijuana bill as too weak.

In the newspaper Excelsior, columnist Adrian Rueda called it a “decaffeinated” effort. In contrast, Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s former foreign minister, said that if Mexico City allowed for what he called a de facto legalization of drug sales, “it will have tremendous repercussions nationally and internationally.”

richard.fausset@latimes.com

Twitter: @RichardFausset

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times' Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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