The Supreme Court (SCJN) ruled Wednesday that penalizing the possession of any amount of marijuana is unconstitutional unless it can be proven that the drug is not for personal use.
Decriminalization of the possession of marijuana had only applied to quantities of five grams or less.
Three of five justices voted in favor of revoking part of an article of the General Health Law, which stipulated that possession of marijuana for personal use is limited to no more than five grams. Possession of larger quantities, even if they were for personal use, was punishable by imprisonment of up to three years.
The SCJN established that prosecutors and/or judges must determine whether people caught with marijuana intended to use it themselves or sell or distribute it.
Most minor possession charges shouldn’t reach court as a result of the court’s ruling. Lower court judges are not obliged to follow the SCJN’s guidance given that only three of five judges voted in favor of the law change but most are expected to do so to avoid having to hear minor marijuana possession cases, the newspaper Reforma reported.
The court’s ruling says that criminal intervention by the state when marijuana carried by a person is for personal use is not justified or reasonable. Instead, it’s an “arbitrary interference” that affects a person’s dignity, private life and autonomy, the SCJN ruled.
“Criminal prosecution of a person who possesses cannabis within their sphere of privacy without affecting third parties is not justified,” the ruling added.
Allowing authorities to prosecute possession of more than five grams of marijuana for personal use is to allow the punishment of “moral qualities, personality or personal conduct, which doesn’t have constitutional support,” the court said.
Its ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Edgar Díaz Sánchez, who was arrested in possession of just over 30 grams of marijuana in 2018.
The SCJN ruled in 2019 that prohibition of marijuana is unconstitutional because criminalization violates the right to free development of personality. It has directed Congress to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, but lawmakers have repeatedly missed deadlines to do so.
With reports from Reforma