As activists and individuals ramp up pressure on politicians to change laws governing the use of marijuana, some citizens are digging in their heels and starting campaigns to keep the current restrictions firmly in place.
The NGO Sin Mota Somos Más has begun a campaign to highlight the dangers that legalizing marijuana may present, in particular the increased likelihood of addiction and associated health risks.
The group says the legalization of cannabis should be dependent on a public plebiscite and not be a decision made solely by legislators. Most opinion polls show Mexicans to be slightly in favor of maintaining current restrictions on the use of the substance.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios (Cofepris), reported that it has received 57 applications from citizens with various ailments requesting to be excused from laws banning marijuana cultivation and use.
The requests come after a recent landmark ruling in November, in which Mexico’s Supreme Court agreed that four members of a nonprofit organization should be allowed to grow and smoke marijuana.
Cofepris Director Mikel Arriola said the court papers stemming from that ruling have yet to be received, meaning that the four aforementioned plaintiffs have yet to obtain official documentation granting them permission to grow and use marijuana.
Arriola said subsequent requests would be dealt with in accordance with the law, noting that Cofepris cannot give permission for marijuana use prior to a Supreme Court decision, because their obligation to follow federal laws.
Although Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has endorsed a full debate on the issue, he opposes recreational consumption and legalization of the drug because of the effects that it may have on young people.
Supporters of legalization in Mexico point to a certain degree of hypocrisy, and have highlighted the president’s unreserved support of the alcohol sector. Peña Nieto lauded Dutch transnational Heinken’s decision earlier this year to invest US$460 million in the construction of a new brewery in Meoqui, Chihuahua. Critics say the World Health Organization attributes 24,000 traffic deaths in Mexico every year to alcohol-related accidents. The National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Information (INEGI) says alcohol-related diseases are two of the top four causes of mortality for Mexicans aged 35 to 44, with alcohol-influenced liver disease accounting for 12,540 deaths in the country annually.