Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Non-Smokers Lead Fight for Mexico Marijuana/Cannabis Legalization

An unlikely group is leading the legal battle to break Mexico's marijuana ban: Two attorneys, an accountant and a social activist with no interest in actually growing or smoking pot.
Together, they form the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use, whose Spanish acronym spells "SMART," hoping the Supreme Court will rule in their favor on Wednesday.
While a victory for SMART would only allow the group to grow and consume its own pot, supporters say it could open the door for others to win similar cases and force Congress to consider legalizing marijuana.
"I have never smoked (marijuana), and I will never do it," Francisco Torres Landa, 50, told AFP from his law firm's office in an upscale Mexico City neighborhood.

He doesn't even want to grow weed.
Torres Landa and his SMART colleagues say their goal is to strip an important source of revenue from drug cartels and, hopefully, stop a spiral of violence that has killed tens of thousands of people in the past decade.

The group took its case to the courts in 2013 after the government's health regulator, Cofepris, denied its request for permission to produce and consume its own marijuana for recreational use.
Justice Arturo Zaldivar, considered a liberal member of the court, has accepted the case and is recommending to grant them permission, arguing that the laws banning consumption are unconstitutional.
President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December 2012, has voiced opposition to the legalization of drugs.
He has pressed on with his predecessor's controversial strategy of using troops to go after cartels.
SMART members say they have spotted government representatives at the court lobbying against their case.

- 'Strategic litigation' -

Legalization has caught on in other parts of the region.
Uruguay has created a regulated market for pot, while Chile's Congress is debating legislation to legalize its recreational and medical use.
In the United States -- the biggest consumer of drugs from Mexico -- 23 US states and the capital Washington now allow medical marijuana, and four others plus the US capital have legalized pot for recreational use.
"This is strategic litigation to erode the prohibitionist drug policies," said Torres Landa, a father of five who became an anti-violence activist after his cousin was kidnapped and murdered in 2005.

His office is decorated with newspaper clips of his favorite football team and drawings made by his children.
"They're my inspiration. When I feel down, I look up at my children's drawings and get energized," said Torres Landa, who works on the marijuana campaign for free.
- Drug war's 'brutal' cost -
One of his SMART partners is Armando Santacruz, a 54-year-old accountant and founder of a company that sells raw material who also wants to leave a better country for his five daughters.
Like the others, Santacruz is a member of Mexico United Against Crime, a civil society group.
Wearing blue jeans, a sports jacket and no tie, Santacruz said that after fighting for 15 years to reduce the crimes plaguing Mexican society, he realized that his actions were not enough.
One of his brothers was kidnapped two years ago.
"We realized that we would have few results if we didn't block the drug policy," he said from his mall office in the capital.
"The cost in blood is brutal and the (government's strategy) has not people from getting drugs," said Santacruz, who admitted that he has smoked pot in past occasions, though he is not a user now.
The woman in the SMART group, Josefina Ricano, is the president and founder of Mexico United Against Crime.
Ricano experienced a horrendous tragedy in 1997, when her son was kidnapped and killed.
The fourth member of SMART is Andres Aguinaco, a seasoned attorney who has taken up the cause of the parents of an eight-year-old epileptic girl, who recently won a legal battle to use medical cannabis to fight the 400 fits she suffers each day.
The girl, Grace, took her first treatment last month after the government granted her an exception to the law, making her the first Mexican to legally consume cannabis.

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