A group of 67 prominent Mexican artists, politicians, intellectuals and attorneys on Wednesday called for full decriminalization of marijuana consumption.

The petition, published in several dailies, was signed by actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, writers Angeles Mastretta, Juan Villoro and Javier Sicilia, attorneys Fernando Gomez Mont and Agustin Acosta, and former Health Secretary Julio Frenk, among others.

The signatories noted that 60 percent of inmates in Mexico's federal penitentiaries have been sentenced for drug offenses and that, of those prisoners, 59 percent were behind bars for marijuana-related crimes.

They also said that marijuana is far less addictive than tobacco.

"Criminalization increases the (street) price of drugs," while Mexico's drug cartels get much of their revenue from marijuana sales, the petition added.

"This exorbitant income is used to purchase weapons, pay hitmen, and bribe public officials. Decriminalization would reduce that income, which is not replaceable by other organized crime activities (kidnapping, extortion and robbery)," they said.

"Mexico has paid a high price for applying the punitive policy of prohibition," the petition said, adding that although "neither decriminalization nor any other individual measure is a panacea that will do away with violence, corruption and insecurity," it would be "a step in the right direction."

Mexico's previous president, Felipe Calderon, gave the armed forces the leading role in the struggle with the cartels. The militarization strategy was accompanied by an explosion of violence and the drug war claimed around 70,000 lives during his 2006-2012 term.

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