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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cocaine, Heroin Set to Be Legalized in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, Mexico -- Mexican President Vicente Fox will sign a bill that would legalize the use of nearly every drug and narcotic sold by the same Mexican cartels he has vowed to fight during his five years in office, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The list of illegal drugs approved for personal consumption by Mexico's Congress last week is enough to make one dizzy -- or worse.

Drugs on the bill include cocaine, heroin, LSD, marijuana, opium, psilocybin mushrooms and amphetamines.

And the per-person amounts approved for possession by anyone 18 or older could easily turn any college party into an all-nighter: half a gram of coke, a couple of Ecstasy pills, several doses of LSD, a few marijuana joints, 5 grams of opium and more than 4 kilograms of peyote, the hallucinogenic cactus.

The law would be among the most permissive in the world, putting Mexico in the company of the Netherlands. Critics, including U.S. drug policy officials, are already worrying that it will spur a domestic addiction problem and make Mexico a narco-tourism destination.

Even the Netherlands, famous for coffeehouses that sell small quantities of potent marijuana and hashish, forbids the possession and sale of narcotics. Colombia allows personal use of marijuana, cocaine and heroin, but not LSD.

Selling drugs or using them in public still would be a crime in Mexico. Anyone possessing drugs still could be held for questioning by police, and each state could impose fines even on the permitted quantities, the bill stipulates. But it includes no imprisonment penalties.

Lawmakers who voted for decriminalization, some of whom have expressed surprise over the details of the bill, said it would for the first time empower local police to make drug arrests and allow law enforcement in general to focus on intercepting large drug shipments and major traffickers. The bill would also stiffen penalties for selling drugs near schools and authorize police to detain users to check whether amounts were over the legal limit.

A presidential spokesman said Tuesday that Fox would sign the bill, calling it an important tool in the fight against drug trafficking. Fox has avoided public comments on the bill and did not attend a news conference about it Tuesday.

Since the vote by Congress last week, lawmakers have said they are unsure who amended the bill, originally aimed at legalizing possession of small quantities of drugs among addicts, to make it apply to all "consumers."

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is refraining from public criticism of Mexico. But in private meetings Monday with Mexican officials in Washington, U.S. officials tried to discourage passage of the law, U.S. Embassy officials in Mexico City said.

"Any country that embarks on policies that encourage drug use will get more drug use and more drug addiction," said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.