Publishedduration57 minutes agoimage copyrightEPAimage captionSome lawmakers celebrated the passage of the bill in the Senate, a key parliamentary hurdle

Mexico has moved a step closer to legalising cannabis for recreational use, after lawmakers passed a bill aimed at curbing violent crime linked to drug trafficking.

The country's upper house of parliament, the Senate, backed the bill by 82 votes to 18 on Thursday.

The Senate said the bill's objective was to reduce organised crime by shrinking the illegal drugs market.

The bill must be approved by the lower house by mid-December to become law.

If passed, the bill would mark a change of approach to drugs for the country.

Mexico has long struggled with a bloody war against powerful drug cartels, with violence killing tens of thousands of people every year.

But public opinion about legalisation in Mexico has shifted in recent years, reflecting a growing sentiment in Latin America and elsewhere that the current prohibition on drugs should change.

  • Why are so many countries now saying cannabis is OK?
  • Health risks of recreational cannabis

In a landmark ruling, Mexico's Supreme Court opened the door to the recreational use of marijuana in 2018.

The court effectively overturned the ban on using cannabis recreationally, but it still remains illegal to carry more than five grams (0.18 ounces) of the drug.

The bill passed by the Senate would change that, paving the way for the creation of one of the world's largest lawful marijuana markets.