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Senate leader says marijuana legalization debate set to begin

Draft legislation possible by third week of October

Debate on the legalization of marijuana will begin in the Senate next week, the leader of the Morena party in the upper house of Congress said on Friday.

Ricardo Monreal Ávila said that Senate committees will review proposals to legalize use of the drug and that legislation could be drafted by the third week of October.

Morena Senator and marijuana advocate Jesusa Rodríguez Martínez said that a total of 13 proposals will be reviewed in open sessions during which a range of views, including those of the general public, will be heard.

The Supreme Court published eight precedents in February on the recreational use of marijuana that determined that prohibition of the drug is unconstitutional.

Mexico United Against Crime, a group that opposes the prohibition of drugs, said the court has done its job and it is now up to lawmakers to legalize marijuana.

At a summit on the legalization and regulation of marijuana held in the Senate on Friday, Gil Kerlikowske, a former director of the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy, said that legalization must be backed by “robust regulation” to ensure that minors don’t have access to the drug.

He pointed to research that says that marijuana use can be especially harmful to the still-developing brains of young people.

“. . . We have to make sure that young people don’t use and are not exposed to this product,” Kerlikowske said.

The production, packaging and labeling of commercially available marijuana must be carefully regulated by any law that authorizes the recreational use of the drug, he said.

The former official, who was also commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection during the administration of ex-president Barack Obama, recommended the imposition of taxes on marijuana and said that the revenue raised should be used for drug prevention and rehabilitation programs and to combat the black market for the drug.

In 11 U.S. states where recreational marijuana use is now legal, the illegal market for the drug hasn’t shrunk, Kerlikowske said.

“If you want a controlled environment for marijuana, you have to do everything possible to eliminate the black market . . .”

Source: El Universal (sp) 

CORRECTION: The previous version of this story contained a typo that confused the constitutionality of the prohibition of the drug. The court ruled in February it was not constitutional. 

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