A man smokes a joint as he holds a banner reading "Legalize it" during a 420 dance party to demand legalisation and to celebrate marijuana culture outside the Senate building in Mexico City, May 3, 2014. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

Speaking at a United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs, being held in New York from April 19-21, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto said Tuesday that he supported the legalization of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes, as well as increasing the amount of cannabis that can be legally possessed for personal consumption.

Speaking at the special session — a gathering of world leaders to discuss, for the first time in two decades, the strategy for the war on drugs — the Mexican president reportedly said that drug users should not be criminalized, and that drug use should be treated as a “public health problem.”

Peña Nieto has traditionally been a strident opponent of drug legalization, and cultivation and sale of marijuana has been illegal in Mexico since 1926. But a ruling by Mexico’s Supreme Court last year allowed for liberalization of the country’s marijuana laws.

“I give voice to those [Mexican opinion leaders] who expressed the need to update, within the confines of the law, the use of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes,” Peña Nieto said, according to CNN, adding: “The participants in the forums [held by the government in Mexico] also spoke about the importance of increasing, in accordance with international standards, the amount of marijuana that can be considered for personal use with the goal of decriminalizing consumers.”

He also made an appeal for a global shift in how countries fight drug-related organized crime.

“We should be flexible to change that which has not yielded results, the paradigm based essentially in prohibitionism, the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ ... [which] has not been able to limit production, trafficking nor the global consumption of drugs,” he said, Reuters reported.

The war on drugs that Peña Nieto referred to has killed more than 100,000 people in Mexico over the last 10 years, as a result of police crackdown on drug gangs and violence among warring gangs, which has led to the disappearance of thousands more.

“My country is one of the nations that have paid a high price, an excessive price, in terms of tranquility, suffering and human lives,” the Mexican president said, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Neighboring Colombia legalized the use of medical marijuana in December last year.