Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto proposed Thursday legalizing medical marijuana and easing restrictions on recreational use, a major policy shift for a government that had refused to loosen drug laws.
Presenting the results of a landmark national debate on cannabis laws, Pena Nieto said he was sending a bill to Congress to allow "the use of medications made with marijuana and/or its active ingredients."
His bill would also increase the amount of the drug that can legally be possessed for personal consumption from five to 28 grams (one ounce).
Under the legislation, "it should not be considered a crime to possess 28 grams of marijuana for personal use, in line with international standards. That is to say, consumption will no longer be criminalized," said the president.
Mexico, a major supplier and transport hub for drug trafficking to the United States, has seen a horrific explosion in cartel violence over the past decade.
Pena Nieto decided to hold a series of five public forums on the country's prohibitionist marijuana laws after the courts opened the door to medical pot use last year.
An eight-year-old epileptic girl named Grace became the symbol of efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Mexico when her parents won a ruling that allowed them to import a cannabis-based oil to treat her.
Since then, other families with epileptic children had urged policymakers to loosen the laws.
But Pena Nieto's bill stops short of legalizing marijuana, which proponents argue would strip drug cartels of a major source of revenue and reduce violence that has killed tens of thousands of people.