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Back to Decriminalization of Narcotics

I.  Relevant Law

Although possession of illegal drugs is generally a crime under Mexican law, possession of the following narcotics is not criminally punishable in amounts that do not exceed the listed quantities.  Such small amounts of narcotics are considered by law to be for immediate and personal consumption, which is not criminally punishable, provided that such possession takes place outside of certain places, including educational institutions and prisons:


Maximum Amount
for Immediate and Personal Consumption


2 g

Heroin or diacetylmorphine

50 mg


5 g


500 mg


0.015 mg

MDA, Methylenedioxyamphetamine


Capsules or tablets

40 mg

1 unit whose weight is not higher than 200 mg

MDMA, 3,4- Methylenedioxymethamphetamine

40 mg

1 unit whose weight is not higher than 200 mg


40 mg

1 unit whose weight is not higher than 200 mg[1]

Source: From article 479 of the Ley General de Salud, infra note 1, as translated by the author.

Individuals who are found in possession of these narcotics in quantities at or below the listed amounts must be referred to addiction treatment programs.[2]  

This rule was enacted in 2009 pursuant to an initiative introduced in 2008, which indicated that the list of drugs and quantities the possession of which is not criminally punishable was compiled based on information provided by law enforcement and health authorities concerning the most commonly consumed drugs in Mexico.[3]  The policy underlying the initiative was that consumers of drugs should be treated not as criminals but as persons suffering from addiction, which should be treated as a public-health problem rather than as a crime.[4]

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II.  Initiative on Legalizing Medical Use of Cannabis

In June 2016, Mexico’s Senate announced that it is considering an initiative to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis.[5]  This initiative proposes to grant authority to Mexico’s Department of Health to design and execute policies aimed at regulating the production and use of medicinal products derived from cannabis, as well as the importation of cannabis-based medicines from abroad.[6]  It is unclear whether this initiative will become law.

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Prepared by Gustavo Guerra
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
July 2016

[1] Ley General de Salud [General Law on Health], as amended through June 2016, arts. 478, 479, Diario Oficial de la Federación [D.O.], Feb. 7, 1984, available on the website of Mexico’s House of Representatives at, archived at

[2] Id. art. 478.

[3] Decreto por el que se reforman, adicionan y derogan diversas disposiciones de la Ley General de Salud, del Código Penal Federal y del Código Federal de Procedimientos Penales [Decree Amending Several Provisions of the General Law on Health, the Federal Criminal Code and the Federal Code of Criminal Procedure], D.O., Aug. 20, 2009, available at (click on document no. 44 of the list), archived at

[4] Id.

[5] Press Release, Senado de la República [Mexico’s Senate], Aprueban comisiones regular uso médico de la cannabis [Senate Committees Approve Medical Use of Cannabis] (June 15, 2016), php/informacion/boletines/29226-aprueban-comisiones-regular-uso-medico-de-la-cannabis.html, archived at

[6] Id.