January 30, 2014 / 10:54 PM / 5 years ago

Mexico leftists to propose raising marijuana allowance in capital

Marijuana plants are seen in a room of a house in Zapopan, neighbouring Guadalajara, January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Alejandro Acosta

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The opposition party governing Mexico City said on Thursday it would propose raising the amount of marijuana residents of the capital can possess to seven times the current limit to help speed up drug liberalization in Mexico.

Since former President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on drug cartels seven years ago, Mexico has been wracked by gang-related violence, and there is growing pressure to explore regulation as a way of tackling the problem.

The leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has led the drive to liberalize Mexico’s drug laws, and aims to use the capital, which it has governed since 1997, as starting ground.

Vidal Llerenas, a PRD member of the Mexico City assembly, said the initiative that is due to be presented in the next two weeks would increase the amount of marijuana local residents are allowed for personal consumption to 35 grams from 5 grams.

“The proposal basically ensures that people in possession of a reasonable quantity of marijuana will not be prosecuted,” said Llerenas. “What can we do to lower the social costs of drug use? Part of the answer is regulation and part is decriminalization.”

In 2009, Mexico made it legal to carry up to 5 grams (0.18 ounce) of marijuana, 500 milligrams (0.018 ounce) of cocaine and tiny amounts of heroin and methamphetamines.

Cartel violence, however, is still a major problem in Latin America’s second biggest economy, claiming the lives of more than 80,000 people over the past seven years.

In September, a group of prominent Mexicans including former ministers, businessmen, artists and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Mario Molina urged the government to decriminalize marijuana in an effort to reduce corruption and lower the income of cartels.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has resisted taking that step, but officials have said that he is closely watching developments elsewhere. Lawmakers have said that Mexico is likely to gradually change tack once a bigger section of the Americas has liberalized drug laws.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Dave Graham, Toni Reinhold

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