Mexican President Felipe Calderon signed legislation last week decriminalizing the personal possession of small quantities of cannabis and other controlled substances.

The legislation, passed by Congress in May, eliminates criminal penalties for the personal possession of up to five grams of marijuana. The possession of small amounts of other illicit substances, including heroin and cocaine, will also no longer be prosecutable.

Under the new law, anyone caught by law enforcement with small amounts of illicit drugs will be encouraged to seek treatment. Drug treatment will be mandatory for third-time offenders.

The new legislation authorizes state and local police to enforce drug trafficking laws. Previously, only federal police (about five percent of Mexico’s law enforcement personnel) had the authority to arrest individuals suspected of selling drugs.

State lawmakers have up to a year to implement the new law.

In 2006, Mexico’s Congress passed a virtually identical measure, only to have it vetoed by former President Vincente Fox. Fox’s veto came after political pressure from members of the US State Department, who alleged that enacting such a law would promote “drug tourism.”

At the Netroots Nation conference a few weeks ago in Pittsburgh, I interviewed members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

Their arguments in favor of the legalization of all drugs are very compelling.

I’ll work on finally transcribing the interviews this weekend.  We need to bring this to the forefront before another young person is dragged to prison and punished for a medical issue.

More on this to come soon.