Two-thirds of Mexicans against decriminalizing marijuana: poll

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Two-thirds of Mexicans are against decriminalizing marijuana, according to an opinion poll published on Tuesday, just days after a Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to an eventual legalization.

A man holds a sign during a demonstration in support of the legalization of marijuana outside the Supreme Court building in Mexico City, Mexico, November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Some 66 percent of people polled in the telephone survey by El Universal newspaper opposed legalizing the drug. But 63 percent said they backed a wide-ranging debate on marijuana legislation in Mexico, which has suffered a decade of vicious drug violence that has killed tens of thousands.

Last week, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled to allow four plaintiffs to grow and smoke pot recreationally in a decision that could open the door to legalization.

But any legalization is likely some time away.

It would take four more consecutive decisions of the same kind, or eight of the 11 permanent justices to agree, for the Mexican Supreme Court’s ruling to set an official precedent and force the government to review the law.

On Monday, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said he was not personally in favor of legalization, but he asked the Interior Ministry to bring together specialists to debate the future of weed regulation.

Interior Minister Miguel Angelo Osorio Chong said on Tuesday it was time to review policy on marijuana and that the government could give its support to new approaches that “avoid violence and which really benefit society on health matters.”

Policymakers say that change in marijuana regulation could bring substantive relief to Mexico’s overcrowded prisons, where many inmates are doing time for minor drug-related offenses.

A senator from Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Cristina Diaz, also proposed on Tuesday amending a health law to allow the use of medical marijuana for the treatment of illnesses such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis or certain types of cancer.

El Universal’s poll was the first nationwide survey on the debate published in a major newspaper since the Supreme Court decision; it was conducted from Nov. 6-7.

El Universal said it interviewed 1,000 people, and that the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Well over 100,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2007. Some people think marijuana legalization in Mexico and the United States could eventually lead cartels to stop selling the drug.

Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter, Lizbeth Diaz and Anahi Rama; Editing by Frances Kerry, Alan Crosby and Leslie Adler