A man smokes marijuana inside his apartment where he uses a hydroponics system to grow his weed in Mexico City in 2013. (Eduardo Verdugo, Associated Press file)

Mexico permits 4 people to legally grow, consume marijuana

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government on Friday granted the first permits allowing the cultivation and possession of marijuana for personal use.

The federal medical protection agency said the permits apply only to the four plaintiffs who won a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court last month. The court said growing and consuming marijuana is covered under the right of "free development of personality."

The permits issued Friday won't allow smoking marijuana in the presence of children or anyone who hasn't given consent. The permits also don't allow the sale or distribution of the drug.

Ironically, the plaintiffs said that even with the permits in hand, they don't plan to smoke the marijuana permitted. They said they filed the suit to make a point about prohibitionist policies being wrong, not to get their hands on legal weed.

"The objective is to change the policy, not to promote consumption," said Juan Francisco Torres Landa, one of the four plaintiffs. "We are going to set the example; we are not going to consume it."

The court's ruling didn't mean a general legalization for Mexico. But if the court ruled the same way on five similar petitions, it would then establish the precedent to change the law and allow general recreational use.

The government medical protection agency, known as COFEPRIS, said it has received 155 applications to get such permits. But other applicants would have to go through the appeals process, something supporters say would probably take at least a year.

President Enrique Peña Nieto has repeatedly said he opposes legalization of marijuana as do a majority of Mexicans surveyed in recent polls.