On Thursday Mexico finally enacted legislation to decriminalize personal possession of small quantities of all drugs (plans reported/discussed in more detail here back in May).
The legislation will operate in a somewhat similar fashion to the Portugese approach with arrested individuals having to agree to a drug treatment program to address admitted addiction or enter a prevention program designed for recreational users. penalties for those who refuse to attend one of these kinds of programs under the Mexican scheme have yet to be clarified.
The Mexican legislation defines threshold quantities of drugs under which which a designation of personal use can be made. These include 5 g of cannabis, or half 0.5g of cocaine, 50mg of heroin, LSD 0.015mg, and MDA/MDMA/methamphetamine all at 40mg (or 200mg for pills). Problems with such thresholds to make a distinction between possession for personal use and intent to supply offences have recently been discussed in a the context of UK legislation ( see appendix of this Transform briefing).
The response from the US has so far been somewhat muted, in stark contrast to the uproar that greeted similar proposals from the previous President Vincent Fox in 2006 , which were abandoned under extreme pressure from the Bush administration.
In many respects the legislation represents a formalisation of what was widespread tolerant policing practice - so may not have a huge impact on the ground.
Mexico joins a growing list of countries around the world that have either made similar moves or have them in the pipeline (see further reading below). Such moves - it is important to note - only address personal possession and use and do not involve decriminalisation or legalisation/regulation of drug production and supply which remains in the control of criminal enterprises. The UN treaties, whilst theoretically allowing moves towards decriminalising (or at least depenalising) personal use, specifically outlaw exploring options for legal regulation of production/supply. That said - there is an increasingly active debate in Latin America around such moves (see below).
For more details see this Associated Press report 20.08.09
- Drug policy reform in practice - useful new briefing from TNI on decriminlisation and other forms of reform in Europe and the America's