Mexico could legalise ganja

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ganja-image-5.jpgPresident-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's future interior minister introduced a bill Tuesday to legalise marijuana in Mexico, a country wracked by violence fuelled by its powerful drug cartels. Senator and future interior minister Olga Sanchez Cordero introduced the bill, to "propose a responsible regulation model adapted to Mexico's circumstances," according to the text published on the Senate's website.

Sanchez has been given "carte blanche" to explore ways to overhaul drug policy under Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist who takes office on December 1 after winning Mexico's July elections in a landslide. Lopez Obrador's coalition holds a majority in both houses of Congress, giving the bill a good chance of passing.

That would mark a sea change after decades of prohibitionist policy in Mexico, whose shared border with the United States, proximity to leading narcotics producers such as Colombia, and domestic production of marijuana, heroin and other drugs have made it one of the top drug trafficking countries in the world.

If the bill passed, Mexico would become just the third country in the world to legalise recreational cannabis use, after Canada and Uruguay. The bill proposes "strict legal regulation" that would regulate and monitor marijuana production, sales and consumption.

It would allow users to grow up to 20 plants at a time and produce 480 grams (17 ounces) of the drug per year for personal consumption. The bill comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision last week that created a legal gray area around marijuana. The court ruled in favor of a private citizen who sued for the right to be able to consume marijuana recreationally. It was its fifth such decision, which under Mexican law sets a legal precedent.

However, as things now stand, each individual seeking permission to use the drug will have to file a separate court case. Authorities say they have received 615 requests so far. Desperate to crack down on its brutally violent cartels, Mexico deployed the army to fight drug trafficking in 2006.

Since then, the violence has worsened. The country registered a record 28,711 murders last year, and the record is on track to be broken again this year.