Photo via Salomon Chertorivski

Just days after nearby California legalized recreational cannabis sales, a candidate for mayor of Mexico City has announced his support for the legalization of personal-use cannabis cultivation. “My proposal is the legalization of private cultivation for personal consumption, not for sale, in homes in Mexico City,” said Salomon Chertorivski, a nominee for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), to Reuters this week. According to local opinion polls, the PRD is the second most popular choice among voters, trailing just behind the Morena party.

Chertorivski, a former federal health minister and a Mexico City government official, told Reuters that he believes drug use should be treated as a public health issue rather than a criminal concern. But instead of advocating for full decriminalization of all drugs as as has been done in Portugal, he says Mexico City should take a “step-by-step” approach, beginning with cannabis reform. Chertorivski also explained that legalization would take business away from drug cartels, who make millions of dollars dealing in black market marijuana and are responsible for over 140,000 deaths during the past decade.

Cannabis has been prohibited in Mexico since 1920, but support for legalization has been growing. Last February, a Mexican company was granted the right to import hemp-based CBD oils into the country for medical use. Within months, Mexican legislators approved a bill to legalize medical cannabis by a landslide vote, and President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the bill into law last June. The law currently limits THC content of medical cannabis products to 1% or less, however. Later this year, the country's health department will authorize a wide variety of cannabis-based edibles, drinks, cosmetics, and other products for medicinal use.

Such a move in Mexico City would follow a trend of liberalization towards adult-use cannabis in the country. In 2009, Mexico decriminalized “personal use” possession of five or fewer grams of marijuana, and in 2015, the country's Supreme Court issued a 4-1 ruling stating that four individuals would be permitted to grow their own weed because prohibiting them from doing so would violate their right to the free development of one's personality. Public opinion has also been shifting in favor of legalization, with one-third of Mexican voters expressing support for legalization at election exit polls in 2016, up from seven percent in 2008.