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'Smoke with freedom': Mexicans get high in marijuana garden outside Senate

AMERICA
By Reuters | Sep 25th 2020 | 2 min read

A marijuana user smokes inside a protest cannabis garden next to Mexico's Senate building, during a call for legalisation, using the garden as a tolerant and safe place to smoke in Mexico City, Mexico, on September 24, 2020. [Reuters]

A cannabis ‘garden’ sprouting next to Mexico’s Senate building has become a smoker’s paradise, with Mexican stoners lighting up joints without fear of arrest.

The cannabis seeds sowed in a plaza by Mexico’s Senate by pro-marijuana activists in February have mushroomed into strikingly large plants, and become symbolic of a drive to legalize marijuana in a nation riven by drugs-related violence.

“Being able to smoke here (in the garden) in freedom is very important to me,” said Marco Flores, a barista sitting on a bench overlooking the Congress building.

“I no longer go out on the streets in fear”.

Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that laws prohibiting cannabis use are unconstitutional but the government is yet to draft legislation that would formally legalise marijuana, leaving pot-smokers facing criminal charges if caught smoking.

But in the garden run by pro-marijuana activists, people are allowed in for 30 minutes at a time and can light up in peace. So far police appear to be turning a blind eye to the practice, though it’s unclear how long that will last.

 “It’s great that they have opened a space for people who are open to new experiences, or who want to find out a little bit about this subject,” said Carlos Diaz, another smoker. “They can come and check it out.”

For Jose Rivera, a cannabis activist, the garden is a tool to educate and offer ‘human rights’.

“We want (Mexican lawmakers) to understand that we are smoking quietly and that we are not a risk to anyone,” he said. “Enough of the mistreatment.”

Mexico’s Lower House of Congress passed a bill on Friday to legalize the use of marijuana and cannabis for medical and scientific needs, a step closer to outright legalization in a country long scarred by warring drug cartels.

The bill sailed through the Senate in December and will now be sent to President Enrique Pena Nieto, who is expected to sign it.

“The ruling eliminates the prohibition and criminalization of acts related to the medicinal use of marijuana and its scientific research, and those relating to the production and distribution of the plant for these purposes,” the Lower House said in a statement on its website.

The measure passed in a general floor vote with 371 in favor, seven against and 11 abstentions, and now classifies the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as “therapeutic.”

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