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There is a popular saying that the third time is the charm. However, when it comes to the Mexican judicial system, the fifth ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court is the charm. In some ways, this multiple-case system makes more sense than single case precedent changing national law, as it often does in the United States. This helps ensure that a single outlier case will not have a dramatic impact on the legal rights of everyone in a country. In order for a Supreme Court ruling to affect the entire country of Mexico, the court has to rule on the same issue in the same way at least five times.
As of Wednesday, October 31st, 2018, the Mexican Supreme Court has officially ruled five times in different court cases against the prohibition of recreational cannabis for adults. Many news outlets were quick to pounce on this bit of information and as a result produced headlines declaring that Mexico had officially legalized recreational cannabis. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the case.
Legalization implies that there is a law on the books that undoes prohibition. It also implies there are legal systems in place for cultivating, buying, selling, and possessing recreational cannabis. That is not what’s happening right now in Mexico. What has happened is that the Supreme Court has ruled that the law prohibiting recreational cannabis use is unconstitutional.
Those accused of minor possession and cultivation offenses in Mexico in the future can use this ruling as part of their affirmative defense in court, and lower courts will need to abide by the idea that the absolute prohibition of cannabis is against the Mexican Constitution. This ruling will not stop law enforcement from arresting people for using cannabis or growing it, and it will not allow for the legal sale or use of cannabis in Mexico.
Before you start planning your ganja getaway to Cancun, make sure you actually understand what this ruling means. From a macro perspective, this ruling takes Mexico one step closer to actual cannabis legalization. Lawmakers could take action, in light of this ruling, to create a legal cannabis system. Only time will tell how the laws on cannabis in Mexico will change.
It seems as though we are entering a countdown to the time when the United States will become the shitty prohibition filling of the North American sandwich. Citizens in the U.S. may very likely continue to face criminal prosecution for cannabis use, while our neighbors to the North and the South will have the legal right to use it.