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Mexico: Law Allowing Personal Drug Use and Against Small-Scale Drug Trafficking

(Sept. 4, 2009) On August 20, 2009, the Mexican government officially published a new decree amending the General Law on Health and the Federal Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. It entered in force on the following day. The amendments grant power to the state authorities to prosecute all crimes related to drug trafficking, as long as the quantities involved do not exceed certain stipulated limits. Prosecution of such cases will be the responsibility of the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR).

The amendments state that no criminal prosecution will be undertaken against persons who have in their possession a quantity of drugs equal to or less than 500 milligrams of cocaine, five grams of cannabis or marijuana, 40 milligrams of methamphetamines, 2 grams of opium, or 50 milligrams of heroin, among other drugs.

An act will be considered “retail drug trafficking” if the quantity possessed is less than the result of multiplying the standard, stipulated amount of a drug for personal use by 1,000. For instance, because the amount of marijuana dose considered under the Law to be for personal use is five grams, amounts of five kilograms will be considered retail drug trafficking and will be prosecuted at the local level. The possession of any amount exceeding that limit will be under the jurisdiction of federal prosecutors and will be considered (wholesale) “drug trafficking.”

However, federal prosecutors will be able to take under their jurisdiction any case of retail drug trafficking if they believe that it should not be investigated by state authorities. Moreover, federal prosecutors under the authority of the PGR may authorize undercover police officers to buy drugs from retail drug dealers.

The amendments specify that the federal and local public health institutions must establish specialized centers for the treatment, care, and rehabilitation of drug addicts. Such centers must provide modern methods of handling drug offenders. In addition, the amendments decriminalize the possession of drugs by drug addicts, give priority to the treatment of addiction, and mandate that the Health Secretariat establish a national program to combat this problem.

The amendments to the General Health Law and to the Federal Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure indicate that the federal prosecutors will not prosecute those persons who possess medications that include narcotics, whose sale to the public is subjected to special purchase requirements for medical treatment. Possession of drugs such as peyote or hallucinogenic mushrooms also will not be penalized “when, due to the nature, circumstances, and quantity [of the substances], it may be presumed that they are going to be used in ceremonies, uses and customs of the native communities and people, recognized as such by the local authorities.” (José Gerardo Mejía, Ley Contra Narcomenudeo y de Dósis Mínimas Entra en Vigor, EL UNIVERSAL, Aug. 21, 2009, available at