Congress decriminalizes possession of cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, pot
Mexican federal attorneys and police agents weigh and catalog packages of marijuana, which were seized in a raid in September in Tijuana, Mexico. Small amounts of drugs for personal use are set to be decriminalized.
David Maung / AP
Updated: 8:46 p.m. ET April 28, 2006
MEXICO CITY - Mexico’s Congress approved a bill Friday decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin for personal use — a measure sure to raise questions in Washington about Mexico’s commitment to the war on drugs.
The only step remaining was the signature of the president, whose office indicated he would sign it.
Mexican officials hope the law will help police focus on large-scale trafficking operations, rather than minor drug busts. The bill also stiffens penalties for trafficking and possession of drugs — even small quantities — by government employees or near schools, and maintains criminal penalties for drug sales.
The Bush administration had no immediate reaction.
The bill, passed by Mexico’s Senate on a 53-26 vote with one abstention, had already been approved in the lower house of Congress and was sent to the desk of President Vicente Fox for his signature.
“This law gives police and prosecutors better legal tools to combat drug crimes that do so much damage to our youth and children,” presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar said.
The bill says criminal charges will no longer be brought for possession of up to 25 milligrams of heroin, five grams of marijuana (about one-fifth of an ounce, or about four joints), and half a gram of cocaine — about half the standard street-size quantity, which is enough for several lines of the drug.
Array of other drugs allowed
“No charges will be brought against ... addicts or consumers who are found in possession of any narcotic for personal use,” according to the Senate bill, which also lays out allowable quantities for a large array of other drugs, including LSD, MDA, ecstasy — about two pills’ worth, — and amphetamines.
Some of the amounts are eye-popping: Mexicans would be allowed to possess 2.2 pounds of peyote, the button-sized hallucinogenic cactus used in some native Indian religious ceremonies.
Mexican law now leaves open the possibility of dropping charges against people caught with drugs if they are considered addicts and if “the amount is the quantity necessary for personal use.” But the exemption isn’t automatic.
The new bill drops the “addict” requirement — automatically allowing any “consumers” to have drugs — and sets out specific allowable quantities.
Sale of all drugs would remain illegal under the proposed law, unlike the Netherlands, where the sale of marijuana for medical use is legal and it can be bought with a prescription in pharmacies.
While Dutch authorities look the other way regarding the open sale of cannabis in designated coffee shops — something Mexican police seem unlikely to do — the Dutch have zero tolerance for heroin and cocaine. In both countries, commercial growing of marijuana is outlawed.
The effects could be significant, given that Mexico is rapidly becoming a drug-consuming nation as well as a shipment point for traffickers, and given the number of U.S. students who flock to border cities or resorts like Cancun and Acapulco on vacation.
“This is going to increase addictions in Mexico,” said Ulisis Bon, a drug treatment expert in Tijuana, where heroin use is rampant. “A lot of Americans already come here to buy medications they can’t get up there ... Just imagine, with heroin.”
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