MEXICO CITY, May 1 (Reuters) – Mexico’s Congress has passed a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs, from marijuana to methamphetamine, as President Felipe Calderon tries to focus on catching traffickers.
The bill, proposed by Calderon after an attempt by the previous government at a similar bill came under fire in the United States, would make it legal to carry up to 5 grams (0.18 ounces) of marijuana, 500 milligrams (0.018 ounces) of cocaine and tiny quantities heroin and methamphetamines.
The lower house of deputies passed the bill late on Thursday. It already has been approved by the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Calderon in the days ahead.
Mexico’s Congress passed a similar proposal in 2006 but the bill was vetoed by Calderon’s predecessor, Vicente Fox, after Washington said it would increase drug abuse.
The United States recently pledged stronger backing for Calderon’s army-led war on drug cartels, whose turf wars have killed some 2,000 people so far this year in Mexico, as the drug violence is starting to seep over the border.
The new bill also allows Mexican states to convict small-time drug dealers, no longer making it a federal crime to peddle narcotics, a move that should speed up those cases.
U.S. President Barack Obama praised Calderon’s drug war efforts in a visit to Mexico last month and promised more agents and southbound border controls to curb the flow of guns and cash to the cartels. (Reporting Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by Bill Trott)