DPA Statement: Mexico

Press Release August 20, 2009
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann at 646-335-2240

Possession of small amounts of drugs including heroin, cocaine and marijuana is now decriminalized in Mexico. The new law, which takes effect today, removes criminal penalties for possession of drugs considered to be for personal use — e.g., up to 5 grams of marijuana (roughly three to five joints) and half a gram of cocaine, (equivalent of three to eight “lines”). The law will offer treatment instead of incarceration for people caught with personal use.

A similar decriminalization bill passed Mexico’s Congress in 2006 but the Fox administration decided not to sign it, reportedly because of opposition in the United States.

Statement from Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“Mexico’s new law to decriminalize personal possession of illicit drugs is consistent with the broader trend throughout Western Europe, Canada and other parts of Latin America to stop treating drug use and possession as a criminal problem. But it contrasts sharply with the United States, where arrests for marijuana possession hit a record high last year — roughly 800,000 annually — and now represent nearly half of all drug arrests nationwide.

“This new law is a step in the right direction toward removing criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts of drugs for their own use. But Mexican authorities need to avoid the temptation to arrest even more people for other low level drug offenses–a possibility that this law allows.

“Mexico is trying to make the right choices on law enforcement priorities; it’s time for the United States to do the same.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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