Mexico’s Supreme Court has decriminalised the private recreational use of cannabis by adults, calling the current prohibition unconstitutional.
The court ruled that adults would be able to apply for permits to cultivate and consume their own cannabis.
Smoking marijuana in public and in front of children is banned though.
The decision came after a legalisation bill stalled in Congress and the ruling does not mention the commercialisation of cannabis.
“Today is a historic day for liberties,” Supreme Court president Arturo Zaldívar said.
But some groups said the ruling was unlikely to result in major important changes.
Mexico United Against Crime, an NGO, said the decision “does not decriminalise the activities necessary to carry out consumption” such as possession and transportation.
Mexico’s lower house approved a bill legalising the recreational use of cannabis in March, but still needed final approval by the Senate. The legislation would let users with a permit carry up to 28g and grow as many as eight plants at home for personal use. At present, it is illegal to carry more than 5g.
Supporters of legalisation hope it will reduce some of the violence related to illegal drugs trade, which claims the lives of thousands of people in the country every year.
Attitudes to relaxing at home with a joint are changing around the world and more countries are pushing ahead with liberalising legislation.
It was only in 2012 that Uruguay announced it would be the first country in the world to legalise recreational cannabis use.
In large part, the move was aimed at replacing links between organised crime and the cannabis trade with more accountable state regulation.
Now, possession of small amounts of cannabis is no longer a crime in countries including Brazil, Jamaica and Portugal, although the sale remains illegal.
In Spain it is legal to use cannabis in private, while the drug is sold openly in coffee shops in the Netherlands.
Still more countries and many US states now allow the use of medicinal cannabis.
As public opinion – and consequently that of governments – changes, it seems increasingly likely that other countries will follow, raising questions about how they work together to manage the use and supply of cannabis.