Tag Archive | "marijuana"


Legalization in Mexico: Ending pot prohibition on human rights grounds

“A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” – Abraham Lincoln

The concept of prohibition, while historically was associated with alcohol, is a main talking point in today’s culture when it comes to the topic of marijuana. In recent years, the global community has grabbled with prohibition of marijuana. While many countries have allowed for the legal use of medical marijuana and of possession of small quantities for personal use, and one country has gone so far to legalize the drug outright, no country has considered whether the use of marijuana is a human right; until now.qsfTEKW

On November 4, 2015, Mexico’s Supreme Court made a historical ruling that personal use of marijuana is a “fundamental human right.” The eighty-eight-page opinion based its opinion on the concept that people have the right to engage in “recreation activities that do not harm others.” While Mexico’s ruling does not legalize the sale of the drug, the ruling has caused a ripple effect across Mexico as well as the global community. The global community now has to determine whether the drug treaties from the 1960s and 1970s hold weight in today’s changing view on marijuana. Specifically, the global community will need to address marijuana at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem, as the current treaties call “for international co-operation” in the prohibiting and criminalizing the use, sale, distribution, and production of marijuana. With more countries leaning towards the legalization of marijuana, the treaties and their purposes may become obsolete.

Although Mexico’s ruling has a global impact on the debate prohibition of marijuana, Mexico’s ruling has two other global impacts. The first is how human rights are viewed. Mexico’s ruling was grounded in the “right to the free development of one’s personality.” The “right to the free development of one’s personality” arises from Article 22 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

“Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”

Mexico’s interpretation of the right to development of one’s personality is the right to dignity, which should allow a person to make decisions about one’s life. Mexico equated the choice to consume marijuana to the choice of obtaining a divorce arguing that these choices are in the “sphere of personal autonomy” that should not be interfered with, especially by a government. Mexico went further and explained that “mental experiences” that one has while under the influence of marijuana is “among the most personal and intimate that anyone can experience,” which bolsters the argument using marijuana is within sphere of personal autonomy.

One could use Mexico’s interpretation of the right to development of one’s personality to look at the United States’ right to privacy, which is embedded through out the United States’ Constitution, to make the argument that United States’ federal government should not have the ability to prohibit the personal use of a substance. The United States at the moment does not control what a person chooses to ingest for meals, pain medicine, alcohol, etc. So why should the United States prohibit the personal ingestion of marijuana, which as Mexico points out causes a “personal and intimate” experience?

The counter-argument is that it is the right to development of one’s personality is too broad and includes “anything the individual might wish to do” that causes a “personal and intimate” experience. By allowing a person to do what they want to develop their personality the door to what people can do will open wide open. Granted this is a slippery slope argument, but the argument may find traction in governments that want to keep drugs and other questionable activities to a minimum.

The second impact is on how the global community views international treaties. By legalizing the personal use of marijuana, Mexico goes against United Nations treaties on drugs. While each country has the right to determine what happens within the country and the right to not have the international community interfere with internal policies, countries must adhere to treaties that the country signs. If a country does not adhere to the treaties it signs, why even have international treaties that cannot be enforced? Mexico’s ruling shows the weakness in international law because there is no real mechanism to enforce the drug treaties. Even if the International Court of Justice wanted to bring suit against Mexico or any other country currently violating the treaties on drugs, those countries would have to consent, which is very unlikely.

Regardless of how one feels about the effects of Mexico’s ruling and the ever changing debate on marijuana, the global community will soon have to determine whether or not to continue the prohibition of marijuana.

Teresa Milligan is a 3L law student at the University of Denver – Sturm College of Law and the Editor-in-Chief for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Uruguayan president José Mujica

Critical Analysis: Uruguay’s New Law to Legalize Marijuana

by Laura Brodie, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

November 1, 2014

On December 10, 2013, the country of Uruguay made headlines around the world by passing a law to legalize marijuana throughout the country.  The law is considered a victory for many yet others remain skeptical about its effectiveness as the country continues to wage the war on drugs.  What appears more impressive, however, is the detailed plan and system Uruguay hopes to implement with the passage of the act as it comes into effect (likely) in 2014 and if not, in 2015.  Not only is the new law a tremendously bold step for this South American country, it could potentially have the effect of starting a trend not only in Latin America but other parts of the world.

Uruguay flag marijuana leaf

In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. Image Source: shutterstock.com

Uruguay’s previous law concerning marijuana use was Law No. 14.294, passed in 1974, and has since then been modified by Law No. 17.016 in 1998 and Law No. 19.172 in December 2013.  Law No. 17.016 added the language “chemical precursors or other chemical products” to be included in drug laws, which before that amendment only discussed psychoactive and narcotic substances.  The fundamental change to the law came through the 2013 legislation, however.  Law No. 19.172 specifically states that with regard to marijuana in particular, the Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute must authorize the growing or cultivation of those plants and those activities will be under the direct control of that Institute.

Additionally, Article 6 of the 2013 law qualifies the previous law to state that anyone who produces marijuana by planting, growing, and harvesting marijuana plants with psychoactive effects in accordance with the provisions in Article 3 of (Law No. 19.172) will not be liable for prosecution, which is a dramatic change from the previous law.  Before, the law imposed penalties of imprisonment ranging from 20 months to 10 years for anyone who, without legal authorization, produced substances capable of producing psychological dependency.  Another interesting change is that Article 31 of Law No. 14.294 decriminalized anyone who possessed a reasonable quantity, exclusively for his or her personal consumption, but Article 7 of the 2013 law sets the quantity of allowable marijuana at 40 grams.

The unique aspect of Uruguay’s law is the elaborate system created to regulate the legal production, sale, and consumption of the drug.  The country is setting the price for legal cannabis at around $0.87 per gram, and the rules mandate that one must be either a Uruguayan citizen or a permanent resident in order to purchase marijuana.  The law allows people to grow up to six plants at home and produce at most 480 grams per year.  Also, marijuana clubs with memberships of 15-45 people will be legal.

Uruguayan president José Mujica

Uruguayan president José Mujica signed legislation making Uruguay the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. Image Source: anarquista.net

It appears that Uruguay initiated this new trend of legalizing marijuana use to achieve several goals.  First, the government wants to undercut the black market by offering marijuana at a low price, making it more readily available, and identifying those who are buying and selling it.  Also, the country realized that there was an increase in consumption when marijuana was prohibited, so this law is an attempt to change that and hopefully take care of those who abuse drugs (money from the taxation of cannabis will partially be used to treat those with addictions).  The country has a stupendous goal of trying to track every gram sold by bar-coding bags and containing the genetic information of plants that are legally produced, but this system will only work if enough resources are used to implement the plan correctly.

Although reportedly the sales of legal cannabis have been delayed and will not commence until 2015, it will be interesting to follow the success of the new law and its implementing program to determine whether or not Uruguay’s bold move will be a trendsetter in Latin America and other areas around the world where legislators are considering whether or not to legalize marijuana.


Laura Brodie is a 3L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law