Buoyed by Uruguay, a growing number of nations are reconsidering marijuana legislation.
In Jamaica — where marijuana consumption has nearly taken on an aire of national identity — politicians are currently debating a relaxation of the nation’s marijuana laws. In Argentina, the nation’s drug czar is calling for public debate about the regulation of marijuana. In Morocco, two of the nation’s leading political parties are seeking the legalization of marijuana cultivation for industrial and medical use.
Buoyed by Uruguay — which in December became the first nation to legalize the cultivation, selling and consumption of marijuana — and encouraged by Colorado’s and Washington state’s efforts to decriminalize recreational marijuana use, a growing number of nations are reconsidering marijuana legislation.
In Mexico City, recently proposed legislation would deprioritize marijuana arrests and prosecutions and would promote the use of “dissuasion commissions,” which would offer administrative sentences to marijuana law offenders, rather than a prison sentence. The bill would legalize medicinal marijuana, permit the states and the Mexico City government an increased say in setting local drug policy and would increase the personal use limits for marijuana, LSD, methamphetamine and cocaine.
The bill would, additionally, set up areas throughout the federal district where marijuana can be sold without fear of prosecution. These areas will, however, have certain conditions, such as posted consumer warnings about the health risks of cannabis consumption.
“We believe we’re making a very important contribution to a global debate that has to do with rethinking the issue of drugs,” said Vidal Llerenas, a member of the Mexico City Legislative Assembly and sponsor of the local legislation, at a news conference.
Many Latin American countries, whose drug policies were forged under American pressure, are sensing a change in attitudes. Legalization measures are being proposed for referendum votes in Florida and California this year.
Congress is currently considering the Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act — which would remove legislative hurdles that prevent the U.S. drug czar from studying or supporting the benefits of marijuana consumption — and support for marijuana legalization is swelling in Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
In a recent interview with the New Yorker, President Barack Obama suggested that he did not think that marijuana consumption was more dangerous than alcohol use and that he is troubled by the disproportionate number of minorities incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses.
Speaking of the legalization movement in the U.S., the president said “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
Support for cannabis legalization in Mexico is weaker than it is in the U.S. In recent polling of the 66 members of the Mexico City’s legislature, only 11 openly support Llerenas’ bill; 30 are opposed. The legislature last passed a relaxation of its marijuana laws in 2009. In recent months, Mexico City legalized abortions and gay marriage.