In a move that may send legal ripples across Latin America, Mexico's Supreme Court has opened the door to the recreational use of marijuana, but affirmed a ban on sales and distribution of the substance, McClatchy reports. Answering a petition of four citizens, the nation's highest court ruled 4-1 yesterday to strike down various legal prohibitions on “recreational” use of marijuana, and said the four people may cultivate, possess and transport marijuana as long as it is for personal use. Drug-related violence has left tens of thousands of Mexicans dead in the past decade as narcotics cartels and government security forces battled each other, putting a damper on debate about legalization.
President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has opposed any move toward drug legalization, said his government “respects and acknowledges the rulings” of the court “including that related to the recreational use of marijuana.” He said the ruling only affects the four citizens and that marijuana consumption remains illegal for the nation's 118 million citizens. “In no way does it mean that the consumption, commercialization and transport of marijuana has become legal,” Peña Nieto said. He acknowledged, however, that the ruling “opens space for a broad debate about marijuana … even more so now that we are observing how in various parts of the world consumption of marijuana has been legalized.” The four activists who took the case to the Supreme Court in 2013 are part of a group with the Spanish-language acronym SMART – the Mexican Society for Responsible, Tolerant, Personal Consumption.