Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mexican Supreme Court pot decision delayed (Oct. 29, 2015)

Eager Mexican pot smokers and drug policy watchers will have to keep waiting. The judges of the Mexican Supreme Court's Courtroom No. 1  put off a discussion regarding  a proposal to to strike the legal restrictions against growing and possession of marijuana for personal use.

Though the case is technically limited to an injunction requested by the Mexican Society for Tolerant and Responsible Personal Use, the court's decision has the potential to become a precedent-setting landmark case that could pave the way for decriminalization for marijuana for personal use, reportsEl Daily Post. (See Oct. 20th's briefs.)

The proposal by Justice Arturo Zaldívar argues against prohibition on marijuana use for personal consumption, saying it's an illegitimate restriction on free development of personality, reports Animal Político. Zaldívar’s draft asserts that "the damage derived from consuming marijuana is not serious" in comparison to other narcotic drugs, according to El Daily Post.

Animal Político reports that it's likely the justices will ask the case be sent to a plenary of the entire court considering the importance of the case, which would leave it without a definite hearing date.

The government has argued against the case, saying that the restrictions on marijuana consumption are valid, based on the right to health.
The group which brought the case forward is focusing on libertarian arguments, rather than the contributions of the prohibition to the country's drug war, reports the Latin Times.

Indeed the ruling would have absolutely no effect on the vast majority of the country's marijuana production, which is intended for export to the United States, says Alejandro Hope in the El Daily Post.

"Still, for all its limitations, this could be an important ruling," he says. "First, it would be a powerful symbolic victory for promoters of drug policy reform. Second, it might open the door for more court challenges to existing drug control laws. Third, it could potentially move Mexico into a good long-term equilibrium: legalization without commercialization, i.e., legal marijuana supply without creating another tobacco-style industry."

Despite the delay, the motion itself has forced public figures to come out on the subject, reports Spain's El País. Mexico City mayor Miguel Angel Mancera has come out in favor of pot legalization, while the government addiction commissioner says he's opposed and "does not want a society addicted to marijuana." The governing PRI party has launched an online survey to test the waters of public opinion, and an opposition presidential candidate -- the wife of former President Calderón -- says she'd submit the issue to public referendum. A May study by Congress found that over 70 percent of Mexicans oppose legalization.

"This debate in Mexico's Supreme Court is extraordinary for two reasons: because it is being argued on human rights grounds, and because it is taking place in one of the countries that has suffered the most from the war on drugs," writes Hannah Hetzer, the Policy Manager of the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance in the Huffington Post.
News Briefs

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees warned of an impending Central and North America, due to people fleeing rampant gang violence in parts of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. "The dramatic refugee crises we are witnessing in the world today are not confined to the Middle East or Africa," said the high commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, reports the New York Times. Applications for asylum in the United States have more than quadrupled since 2008, and they are also increasing in Central American countries like Costa Rica and Nicaragua. (See Tuesday's post.)
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos urged peace negotiators to rapidly reach an agreement over how to end the conflict with the FARC, so as to begin an internationally monitored bilateral cease-fire on January 1, reports the BBC. Over the past few years of peace talks with the rebel FARC group, the government has repeatedly refused to enact a bilateral ceasefire. The Farc, have been observing a unilateral ceasefire.
  • Venezuelan prosecutor Franklin Nieves, who this week defected to the U.S. says President Nicolás Maduro personally ordered the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo López. López was recently sentenced to nearly 14 years in jail for inciting violence, after a trial denounced by human rights organizations as a sham. Nieves, one of the two lead prosecutors on the case, has apologized to López and said it was "a totally political trial which should be nullified." (SeeTuesday's briefs.) In an interview on Tuesday with CNN en Español Nieves said that in February of last year he was called in to a meeting with Brig. Gen. Manuel Bernal, then the head of the intelligence police. Nieves alleges that Bernal said he had orders from Maduro to arrest López and three others and that they fabricated evidence in order to justify the warrants. In March, Bernal was included on a list of seven Venezuelan officials sanctioned by the United States over accusations of human rights violations, reports the New York Times.
  • Persian Gulf countries are reportedly against a Venezuelan proposal to gather an oil-price summit with both OPEC member and non-member states, reports the Wall Street Journal. Their rejection of the move is a setback for Venezuela's attempts to prop up slumping oil prices -- which have left its economy in a tailspin. 
  • Coming in third became an unexpected power boost for former Argentine presidential candidate Sergio Massa. The newly crowned kingmaker is enjoying his moment on the political main stage. Yesterday he presented key policy demands and said his 5 million supporters would vote in next month's run-off election based on how the two remaining candidates respond, reports Reuters. But experts say he will avoid making an outright choice, out of fear of alienating his own power base -- which rejects both candidates. Nonetheless, in the past days two top allies have said they would not support Daniel Scioli, dealing a blow to the possibilities of the government backed candidate. Still, the mood on the street is that anything is possible.
  • A rowdy protest at the World Indigenous Games -- a sort of native peoples olympics -- brought the event, held in Brazil, to a premature end. The crowd, made up of mostly Brazilians, were protesting a proposed Constitutional amendment which would transfer the right to demarcate indigenous lands from the executive branch to Brazil's Congress, reports the Associated Press. Such a move would be catastrophic to the 300 or so surviving tribes, as legislators are heavily influenced the agriculture lobby that has fought against indigenous reserves in the past, they say. 
  • Chile's environmental regulator said yesterday that it fined salmon-farming company Los Fiordos $3.2 million for 35 sanitary and environmental violations at 18 salmon farms -- the largest such fine ever, reports the Associated Press.
  • The Puerto Rican Government Development Bank said yesterday that its liquidity has dropped below $1 billion as concerns grow it won't be able to make a large upcoming bond payment amid the U.S. territory's economic crisis, reports the Associated Press.
  • Mexican Congressional commissions decided against a proposal that would reduce the much lauded tax on sugary beverages, reports Animal Político. (See yesterday's briefs.)

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