MEXICO CITY - The Mexico City council is considering the legalization of cannabis plants and the creation of private marijuana smoking "clubs" as it mulls controversial legislation to liberalize consumption, lawmakers said Wednesday.
The capital hosted a three-day forum on drug policy amid a growing debate in Latin America over the course of the region's deadly struggle against narcotrafficking, with President Enrique Pena Nieto taking a stance against legalization.
Esthela Damian, a councilwoman of the city's ruling Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), told AFP the proposals on the table include allowing the cultivation of three cannabis plants per person, as well as a system of cooperatives or "non-profit private clubs."
The forum of experts and representatives from around the world, including the United Nations and Organisation of American States (OAS), gave way to various opinions that could feed legislation the city council may debate in October.
The US states of Washington and Colorado voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana last year, a move that shocked the Mexican government as it faces cartel violence that has left more than 70,000 people dead in the past seven years.
Former president Vicente Fox, who was in office from 2000 to 2006, has come out in favour of legalizing marijuana as a solution to the violence.
Pena Nieto has vowed to tweak the security policy of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, but he has kept troops on the ground to combat drug trafficking and detains kingpins while voicing opposition to drug legalization.
Mexico City, home to almost nine million people plus 11 million more in its suburbs, has stood out from the rest of the country in recent years by legalizing abortion and allowing gay marriage.
The PRD of Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera holds the majority in the city council but Damian said the legislature's powers to regulate drugs are limited.
Mexico currently allows the possession of a maximum of five grams of marijuana for personal consumption, but growing and selling weed is illegal.
Damian said, however, that the club concept is feasible, with a registry of members, production and consumption.
Vidal Llerenas, one of the councilmen drafting the marijuana bill, said he likes the new law in Washington state, which allows people over 21 to possess and use up to an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana.
He also praised legislation making progress in Uruguay that would make it the first nation to produce and distribute pot.
"But the most realistic would be something like in the Netherlands where consumption and possession are not penalized," he said.