Cannabis in Mexico is illegal, though the Supreme Court of Mexico declared the law prohibiting its use unconstitutional on October 31, 2018. The effect of the ruling is that the law was generally made unenforceable and that the government of Mexico must act to formally legalize cannabis within a period of 90 days. However, the Mexican Congress did not abide and the Supreme Court has often extended the deadline.

Cannabis has been illegal since 1920, personal possession of small amounts were decriminalized in 2009, and medical use for THC content less than one percent was legalized in 2017.


Cannabis was introduced to Mexico by the Spanish as early as the 16th century, in the form of hemp. Spain encouraged the production of hemp in the territory, which was used to produce rope and textiles.[1] Following the Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821), hemp farming decreased as subsidies from Spain evaporated.[1]

Some academics also believe that indigenous Mexicans adopted psychoactive cannabis as the drug Pipiltzintzintli for ritual purposes and divination.[2] By 1898, cannabis use was prevalent in Mexico.[3] The drug was commonly used for recreational purposes and as a folk remedy to treat pain—particularly among military personnel and the lower class.[4]


Newsprint depicting trouble in Belem Prison due to cannabis use

In 1882, cannabis was banned at the military hospital in Mexico City, to prevent violence and disorder.[5] Stories of users committing violent crimes were widely circulated by newspapers in Mexico and border towns of the United States.[6] In 1920, Mexico banned the production, sale, and recreational use of cannabis.[7] In 1927, Mexico banned the export of cannabis.[8]


During the late 1970s, a controversial program sponsored by the US government sprayed paraquat on cannabis fields in Mexico.[9] Following Mexican efforts to eradicate cannabis and poppy fields in 1975, the United States government helped by sending helicopters and other technological assistance. Helicopters were used to spray the herbicides paraquat and 2,4-D on the fields; cannabis contaminated with these substances began to show up in US markets, leading to debate about the program.[10]


Decriminalization (2009)[edit]

On 21 August 2009, Mexico decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis and other drugs in order to reduce the illicit drug activity. Maximum amounts which could be considered "personal use" were established. Under the new law, anyone caught with up to five grams of cannabis will be advised to seek a drug rehabilitation center rather than arrested or fined.[11] President Felipe Calderon claimed the change would allow law enforcement to focus on major traffickers rather than minor consumers. In practice, minor drug possession was already widely tolerated by police.[12]

2015 Supreme Court ruling[edit]

In November 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that four individuals from the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use (SMART) would be permitted to grow and consume their own cannabis. The court voted 4–1 that prohibiting people from growing the drug for personal consumption was unconstitutional as it violated the human right to the free development of one's personality.[13][14]

Limited medical use legalized (2017)[edit]

In June 2017, President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a bill into law to allow the medical use of cannabis products containing less than one percent THC.[15] The bill passed the Senate by a 98–7 vote in December 2016 and the Lower House of Congress by a 371–19 vote in April 2017.[16]

2018 Supreme Court ruling[edit]

On October 31, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the law prohibiting recreational use of cannabis in Mexico was unconstitutional. As this was the fifth time that the court had ruled in such a way, it set a binding precedent across the country's court system. The effect of the ruling was that the law prohibiting cannabis still remained in effect, but that it should no longer be enforced due to the fact that anyone could cite the ruling and demand that their charges be thrown out. The ruling mandated that the government of Mexico move to formally legalize cannabis within the next 90 days.[17][18][19][20] On April 17 2020, the Supreme Court extended the deadline to December 15, 2020.[21]

2020–2021 legislation[edit]

As of November 2020, the Mexican Congress had still not passed a law to enforce the Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court also extended the legal deadline to pass the legislation several times.[22] In March 2021 the bill passed 316-to-129 the lower house. In its final form the measure is widely expected to pass through the Senate before being sent to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has signaled support for legalization.[23]

Views on cannabis[edit]

In 2008, only about 7 percent of Mexico's citizens were in favor of legalizing cannabis. That number has grown in the last few years to about 33 percent in favor of legalizing recreational use.[24] This was due to the fact that the war on drugs in Mexico has claimed thousands of lives and destroyed families. The recent legislation of cannabis in the United States could be a factor in making Mexico rethink its views on cannabis. One factor against the regulation of cannabis use in Mexico can be because the majority of Mexico's citizens identify as Catholic. The Catholic Church is against the use of cannabis when used for recreational purposes. Pope Francis said that decriminalizing the drug does not solve the addiction problem.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Robert Clarke; Mark Merlin (1 September 2013). Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany. University of California Press. pp. 129–130. ISBN 978-0-520-95457-1.
  2. ^ Isaac Campos (23 April 2012). Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico's War on Drugs. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-8078-8268-9.
  3. ^ Bonnie, Richard J.; Whitebread II, Charles H. (1999). The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States. New York: Lindesmith Center. p. 5. ISBN 1-891385-06-2.
  4. ^ Bonnie & Whitebread II 1999, p. 33-35.
  5. ^ Beatriz Caiuby Labate; Clancy Cavnar; Thiago Rodrigues (30 July 2016). Drug Policies and the Politics of Drugs in the Americas. Springer. p. 37. ISBN 978-3-319-29082-9.
  6. ^ Bonnie & Whitebread II 1999, p. 35-37.
  7. ^ Isaac Campos (2012). Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico's War on Drugs. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-8078-3538-8.
  8. ^ Al Cimino (15 July 2013). Drug Wars: The Mexican Cartels. Arcturus Publishing. p. 208. ISBN 978-1-78428-044-4.
  9. ^ Panic over Paraquat, Time Magazine, May 1, 1978
  10. ^ "Drug Survival News". 6 (5). March 1978.
  11. ^ "Mexico Legalizes Drug Possession". The New York Times. 21 August 2009. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  12. ^ Wilkinson, Tracy; Marosi, Richard (23 August 2009). "In Mexico, no jail time for small amounts of drugs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  13. ^ "Mexico court ruling could eventually lead to legal marijuana". BBC. 4 November 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  14. ^ Malkin, Elisabeth; Ahmed, Azam (4 November 2015). "Ruling in Mexico Sets Into Motion Legal Marijuana". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  15. ^ Janikian, Michelle (14 September 2017). "Legal Pot In Mexico: Everything You Need to Know". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  16. ^ Osborne, Samuel (21 June 2017). "Mexico legalises medical marijuana". The Independent. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  17. ^ Orsi, Peter (31 October 2018). "Mexico court sets precedent on legal, recreational pot use". Associated Press. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  18. ^ Ingraham, Christophewr (1 November 2018). "Mexico's Supreme Court overturns country's ban on recreational marijuana". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  19. ^ McDonnell-Parry, Amelia (2 November 2018). "Did Mexico Just Legalize Pot?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  20. ^ Adlin, Ben (1 November 2018). "FAQ: Mexico Legalized Cannabis? Not Exactly". Leafly. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  21. ^ Nayeli Lozano (April 17, 2020). "SCJN amplia plazo parra que Senado dictamine regulación de cannabis".
  22. ^ "Marijuana Legalization rushed by activists in Mexico". Yucatan Times. July 20, 2020. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Northern Lights; Marijuana in Mexico". December 24, 2016. ProQuest 1851927517. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  25. ^ Diaz, Berenice Rocio Toboada (September 6, 2013). "Mexico; Marijuana Ignites National Debate". ProQuest 1437942203. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

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