By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Tuesday he is open to the legalization of medical marijuana in Mexico and that his government would announce new measures in the coming days.
"I am giving voice to those who have (in public forums) expressed the necessity of changing the regulatory framework to authorize the use of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes," Pena Nieto said in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Speaking at a special session where world leaders gathered to rethink global strategy in the war on drugs for the first time in two decades, Pena Nieto said drug use should be addressed as a "public health problem" and users should not be criminalized.
Pena Nieto, who has traditionally been a vocal opponent of drug legalization, also called for a global shift in dealing with drug consumption while continuing to fight organized crime.
"We should be flexible to change that which has not yielded results, the paradigm based essentially in prohibitionism, the so-called 'War on Drugs' ... (which) has not been able to limit production, trafficking nor the global consumption of drugs," he said.
Since a landmark Supreme Court decision late last year that paved the way for liberalization of Mexico's marijuana laws, support for medical marijuana has been growing.
A senator from Pena Nieto's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party told Reuters earlier this year that a bill permitting the use of medical marijuana should be approved by May.
Late last year, Colombia approved the use of medical marijuana.
Pena Nieto also said, echoing comments by a senior government minister to Reuters last year, that participants in Mexican government forums have advocated increasing the legal limits for personal marijuana use.
(Additional reporting by Veronica Gomez, Tomas Sarmiento and Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein in Mexico City; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)