MEXICO CITY - A cannabis 'garden' sprouting next to Mexico's Senate building has become a smoker's paradise, with Mexican stoners lighting up joints without fear of arrest.
The cannabis seeds sowed in a plaza by Mexico's Senate by pro-marijuana activists in February have mushroomed into strikingly large plants, and become symbolic of a drive to legalize marijuana in a nation riven by drugs-related violence.
"Being able to smoke here (in the garden) in freedom is very important to me," said Marco Flores, a barista sitting on a bench overlooking the Congress building.
"I no longer go out on the streets in fear."
Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled that laws prohibiting cannabis use are unconstitutional but the government is yet to draft legislation that would formally legalize marijuana, leaving pot-smokers facing criminal charges if caught smoking.
But in the garden run by pro-marijuana activists, people are allowed in for 30 minutes at a time and can light up in peace. So far police appear to be turning a blind eye to the practice, though it's unclear how long that will last.
"It's great that they have opened a space for people who are open to new experiences, or who want to find out a little bit about this subject," said Carlos Diaz, another smoker.
"They can come and check it out."
For Jose Rivera, a cannabis activist, the garden is a tool to educate and offer "human rights."
"We want (Mexican lawmakers) to understand that we are smoking quietly and that we are not a risk to anyone," he said. "Enough of the mistreatment."