The Mexican Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that people have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use, effectively opening the door to legalizing marijuana.
The measure was approved 4-1 vote on the five-justice panel.
The decision by the court’s criminal chamber challenges the country’s strict substance abuse laws and adds weight to the growing debate about the costs of the war on drugs in Latin America.
The New York Times reported that while the ruling does not strike down Mexico’s current laws, it lays the groundwork for future legal actions that could ultimately rewrite them.
At this point, the ruling covers only the plaintiffs in one case, a group of people wanting to form a pot club. But if the court rules the same way on five similar petitions, it would then establish the precedent to change the law and allow general recreational use.
“It’s the drama behind all of our efforts,” said Juan Francisco Torres Landa, a corporate lawyer and plaintiff in the Supreme Court case.
Mexico outlawed the cultivation of marijuana in the 1940s, bowing to pressure from the United States, and, since then, the Mexican black market for the drug has only grown, empowering the country's already mighty criminal organizations.
Few think that the legalization of marijuana will significantly reduce drug violence or weaken cartels as experts say that Mexican gangs continue to account for high percentage of the supply smuggled into the United States, the Times reported.
However, in recent years the fight for marijuana legalization in Mexico had been gaining steam, with ordinary citizens taking up the fight to try to force authorities to accept cannabis use.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.