Mexico’s Jalisco state says yes to medical marijuana
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Mexico’s Jalisco state says yes to medical marijuana

The western Mexican state of Jalisco is in favor of allowing marijuana for therapeutic use but opposes increasing the amount currently permitted for recreational use, a public survey showed this week.

The Jalisco Electoral Institute revealed on Wednesday that of 13,662 Jalisco residents who participated in the survey, 60.77 percent voted yes to allowing those who suffer from terminal, chronic or degenerative diseases to keep five plants — or 150 grams — of marijuana in their homes, while 39.22 percent were against the proposal.

However, when it came to increasing the amount of marijuana allowed for recreational use from five to 30 grams, the results were reversed, with 60.9 percent of participants voting against the proposal and only 39.09 percent voting yes.

Jalisco has traditionally been considered one of Mexico’s most conservative states, but the results show that public opinion on marijuana has grown much more liberal in recent years. The survey was sponsored by the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which hopes to pass a bill based on the results.

Congress to consider medical marijuana bill  

The outcome does not guarantee any change in Jalisco’s laws, but it could help set new precedents for more democratic decision making and will put pressure on the state’s legislators to consider allowing medical marijuana. PRD congressman Enrique Velázquez González described it as “historic” and noted that it would prove “useful to the Jalisco State Congress when it comes to making decisions.”

Ahead of the survey, Jalisco Governor Aristóteles Sandoval of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) said he would vote no to both proposals but did not say whether he would be prepared to veto any bill passed by Congress. However, Velázquez told Reuters this week that the governor was “receptive” to the idea of medical marijuana and that nearly half of the state’s PRI deputies had already pledged to back the bill.

In 2009, Mexico made it legal to carry up to five grams of marijuana, half a gram of cocaine and tiny amounts of heroin and methamphetamines. Following the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto hinted in June that he was also open to liberalizing marijuana laws.

Former president denounces war on drugs

More than 100,000 people have been killed or disappeared in Mexico since former President Felipe Calderón declared war on the nation’s drug cartels in late 2006. Marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines are the primary sources of income for the cartels responsible for so much of that violence, leading many commentators to advocate legalization as a means of cutting off their revenue.

See also: Criticism of Mexico’s new disappeared statistics

Calderón’s predecessor, Vicente Fox, who has become a leading advocate for legalization since leaving office in 2006, said on Monday that “the war on drugs has never worked in the world. It is a lost war.”

Fox said he expects medical marijuana to be legal in Jalisco by the end of the year, a development that could lead to other Mexican states taking similar measures.

“The path toward legalizing drugs is irreversible,” Fox said. “Prohibition must be replaced by regulation.”

Latin American shifts closer to legalization

From the United States to Uruguay, support for legalization has gained real momentum across the Americas in recent years.

Many former presidents and other high-profile figures from the region have called for an end to the so-called War on Drugs, saying drug use should be treated as a public health problem instead of as a crime.

Read more: The War on Drugs is a failure, and legalization may be the answer

Uruguay has taken the boldest step to date, becoming the first country to create a legal, regulated market for marijuana in 2013. Like Mexico, Brazil has taken steps to decriminalize the possession of certain quantities of drugs, while high courts in Argentina and Colombia have declared it unconstitutional to prosecute citizens for possession of drugs for personal use.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has also endorsed a bill introduced this year to decriminalize marijuana for medicinal use.

Medical marijuana has grown particularly common in the United States, where it is now accepted by 23 states. Now that the people of Jalisco have shown their support for such a measure, it could pave the way for a number of Mexican states to adopt similar policies.