Pubdate: Fri, 14 Feb 2014
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2014 The Baltimore Sun Company
Author: Richard Fausset, Tribune Newspapers


Political Challenges Await Bills to Partially Decriminalize Pot

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 to 30 
grams from 5. The bill would also raise personal limits for LSD, 
methamphetamine and cocaine.

"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. U.S. 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 11 openly 
expressed support for the bill.

Since decriminalizing the personal use of small amounts of drugs in 
2009, the federal legislature has been reluctant to greenlight other 
pot liberalization bills. Mexico City has 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 Castaneda, 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."

Cecilia Sanchez of Tribune Newspapers' Mexico City Bureau contributed.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom