Mexico court backs growing cannabis for personal use

Smoking pot in Montevido

Marijuana plant

 Mexico’s Supreme Court opened the door to recreational use of marijuana in a landmark ruling, giving a group of activists permission to grow and smoke their own pot.

Contributing to a growing drug policy debate in Latin America, the justices on Wednesday voted 4-1 in favor of the four members of the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use, whose Spanish acronym spells “SMART.”

Justice Arturo Zaldivar, who backed the group’s effort, said the country’s marijuana prohibition is an “extreme” and “disproportionate” measure.

The vote allows SMART to produce and consume its own pot, but not sell it. The ruling is expected to prompt other activists to turn to the top court, which must issue five similar rulings to establish a legal precedent.

A lady gets stoned smoking pot

Outside the court in the capital’s historic center, dozens of people celebrated the ruling by smoking joints and dancing to reggae music.

“We won!” exclaimed Francisco Torres Landa, a 50-year-old lawyer and SMART member, pumping his fist in the air inside the chamber.

His group hopes the ruling will force Congress to consider legalizing marijuana, a move they say would strip drug cartels of a key source of cash and therefore reduce the country’s runaway violence.

President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has opposed the legalization of pot, said his government “respects and accepts” the ruling.

But he told reporters that the decision is limited in scope to the four members of SMART and that it does not mean a broader legalization of marijuana.

The ruling, however, “opens a broad debate” on how to regulate the use of marijuana and “inhibit its consumption,” he said.

Health Minister Mercedes Juan Lopez said her ministry will now have to draft new regulations to ensure that the health of non-pot smokers and children is protected.