Mexico Backs Medical Marijuana, But Not Recreational

Polls suggest Mexicans think legalization will lead to more consumption.

ByABC News
September 13, 2013, 9:45 AM
A woman holds a baner reading "Make a joint, not war" during a demo in support of the legalization of marijuana, in Mexico City.
A woman holds a baner reading "Make a joint, not war" during a demo in support of the legalization of marijuana, in Mexico City.
Yuri Corteza/AFP/Getty Images

Sept. 13, 2013— -- Politicians who want to change Mexico’s marijuana policies must face an uncomfortable reality: An overwhelming majority of this country’s population opposes the legalization of weed.

A poll published this week, however, does offer some good news to those who would prefer a less prohibitionist stance towards the herb.

It suggests that 65 percent of Mexicans favor the legalization of marijuana for medical use. Only 29 percent of the country’s residents oppose medical marijuana, according to the poll, which was conducted in August by the Parametria research group.

The findings come as Mexican politicians discuss new approaches to marijuana policy. Current laws strictly prohibit the sale and production of the plant.

In Mexico City, the local legislature has held several hearings on marijuana policy this summer, with some officials backing plans to legalize cannabis clubs, where the herb could be grown and smoked, for recreational purposes.

Meanwhile in the Mexican Congress, a group of legislators has drafted a bill that would regulate the production and sale of marijuana. The bill would also allow Mexicans to buy weed at state-sanctioned distributors, or grow up to four plants at home.

Congressman Fernando Belaunzaran, who is leading efforts to get this bill approved, says that legalizing marijuana would reduce the incomes of violent drug cartels who currently traffic the drug, and are responsible for thousands of murders in Mexico.

“To take that market away from them, would be a big hit on their finances. They are only as strong as their resources,” Belaunzaran told local news site Animal Politico.

But Belaunzaran’s argument does not seem to fly too well with most Mexicans.

In polls conducted over recent years by different firms, at least 75 percent of Mexicans have said they oppose the legalization of weed, while support for legalization hovers between 10 to 20 percent of the population.

The poll that was published this week seems to confirm these findings. It asked people if they would support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, and only 10 percent of respondents agreed.

Polls suggest that Mexicans oppose legalization because they think it will lead to greater consumption of the drug. In a poll conducted by Parametria last year, 64 percent of respondents said that legalization would lead to greater consumption of marijuana amongst kids.

Still, such opposition might not necessarily block efforts to legalize weed. In Uruguay, legislators recently approved a bill that regulates the sale, consumption and production of marijuana, even though polls showed that only 25 percent of the country’s population was in favor of the law.

In that country though, marijuana legalization was strongly backed by the country’s president, José Mujica.

In Mexico, President Peña Nieto has said that he is against the legalization of weed, although he also believes that the subject should be up for debate.