Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced Thursday that Mexico would take steps toward legalizing marijuana-based medicines with a national drug policy overhaul that seeks to increase the amount that weed users can legally carry from 5 to 28 grams, Reuters reported.
Peña Nieto had indicated the shift was coming earlier in the week at the United Nations Drug Policy Summit in New York City. He said Tuesday he was "giving voice to those who have expressed the necessity of changing the regulatory framework to authorize the use of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes." Peña Nieto put forth a 10-point proposal at the time that would classify drug use as a public health issue — and address it as such. He then took aim at a drug war that has killed more than 100,000 people in Mexico over the past 10 years, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
"We should be flexible to change that which has not yielded results, the paradigm based essentially in prohibitionism," he said, saying that it "has not been able to limit production, trafficking nor the global consumption of drugs."
Congress must approve Peña Nieto's drug reform plan. Mexico already decriminalized having up to 5 grams of marijuana; and beyond that, judges can make their own calls, CNN reported.
The would-be impact of legalizing medical marijuana wasn't immediately clear in Mexico, where drug cartels have struggled as American states have slowly loosened their weed laws. Between 2013 and 2014, the market for legal pot in the United States grew from $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion.
Get in the game Mexico.. #4/20 https://t.co/s57zL4TgbU
— Vince Alfonso (@VinceEAlfonso) April 21, 2016
An executive for Medical Marijuana Inc., which creates hemp oil, told Reuters earlier this year legal weed in Mexico could be a "$1 billion to $2 billion opportunity" over the next decade.
"It’s good because it reduces violence against users, and it reduces users’ exposure to the criminal justice system," Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Bloomberg. "But in terms of impact on the behavior and revenue streams of criminal groups, I think it’s very small."
Or legal pot could just add to drug cartels' efforts to diversify their offerings. Border patrol officers have seized increasing amounts of heroin and crystal meth in recent years, according to TIME.
Medical marijuana is legal in some form in some countries, including Canada, Colombia and Uruguay, Fusion reported.