Mexico's Supreme Court has opened the door to recreational use of marijuana in a historic ruling, giving a group of activists permission to grow and smoke their own pot.

The justices voted 4-1 in favour of the bid by the four members of the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use, whose Spanish acronym spells "SMART".

Justice Arturo Zaldivar, who backed the group's effort, said on Wednesday that the country's marijuana prohibition is an "extreme" and "disproportionate" measure.

"We won!" exclaimed Francisco Torres Landa, a 50-year-old lawyer and SMART member, after the ruling.

Watch: Marijuana Wars - Part One and Part Two

Outside the court, opponents and supporters held rival protests as the justices debated the case.

"Mexico has many problems to resolve. It's not ready for this," said Consuelo Mendoza, president of the National Union of Parents, who took part in the protest against pot legalisation.

The vote allows SMART to produce and consume its own pot, but not sell it.

While the ruling is limited to the group's four members, supporters say it opens the door for others to seek a similar decision from the court.

Legalising marijuana

But SMART - comprised of two lawyers, an accountant and a social activist - says it does not even plan to grow and smoke pot.

Rather, the activists want to force Mexico's Congress to open a debate about legalising marijuana.

SMART says legalising pot would strip drug cartels of a major source of revenue and therefore help curb the runaway violence that has plagued the country for a decade.

"This is not for the four of us," Torres Landa told AFP news agency, saying the goal was to "break" the government's marijuana prohibition.

President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December 2012, has voiced opposition to the legalisation of drugs.

He has pressed on with his predecessor's controversial strategy of using troops to go after cartels.

Legalisation has caught on in other parts of Latin America.

Uruguay has created a regulated market for pot, while Chile's Congress is debating legislation to legalise its recreational and medical use.

In the United States - the biggest consumer of drugs from Mexico - 23 US states and the capital Washington now allow medical marijuana, and four others plus the US capital have legalised pot for recreational use.

Source: AFP