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Mexico's Fox to OK drug decriminalization law

By Staff
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MEXICO CITY, May 3 (Reuters) Mexico's president will approve a law that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs to concentrate on fighting violent narco gangs, the government said.

President Vicente Fox will not oppose the bill, passed by senators last week, presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar told reporters yesterday, despite likely tensions with the United States.

''The president is going to sign that law, there would be no objection,'' he said. ''It appears to be a good law and an advance in combating narcotics trafficking.'' The approval of the legislation, passed earlier by the lower house of Congress, surprised Washington, which counts on Mexico's support in its war against gangs that move massive quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines through Mexico to U.S. consumers.

Under the law, police will not penalize people for possessing up to 5 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of opium, 25 milligrams of heroin.

Nor does the law penalize possession of 500 milligrams of cocaine -- enough for a few lines.

The legal changes will also decriminalize the possession of limited quantities of LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, amphetamines, ecstasy and peyote -- a psychotropic cactus found in Mexico's northern deserts.

Hundreds of people, including many police officers, have been killed in Mexico in the past year as drug cartels battle for control of lucrative smuggling routes into the United States.

The violence has raged mostly in northern Mexico but in recent months has spread south to cities such as vacation resort Acapulco.

While likely to complicate relations with the U.S. government, the legislation has drawn relatively little attention from the media in Mexico, where drug use is less common than in the United States.

Aguilar did not say when Fox would sign the bill.

Under current law, it is up to local judges and police to decide on a case-by-case basis whether people should be prosecuted for possessing small quantities of drugs.

Reuters CH DB0954

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