Photo Ellen Holland
Mexico is poised to became the third nation in the world to legalize recreational cannabis. This is in part because President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is in support and in part because Canada and Uruguay and much of the United States allow adults to legally consume the world’s most popular illicit drug, but also because the country has no choice.
Legalization at some unknown later date has been inevitable since last fall, when country’s Supreme Court ruled that a nationwide “absolute ban” on recreational cannabis violated a “fundamental right to the free development of the personality,” and that an appropriate change in federal law — legalization — is necessary.
But lawmaking takes time, even when lawmaking is imposed by the courts. As Marijuana Moment reported, on Tuesday, almost a year after the court’s landmark ruling, Sen. Julio Ramon Menchaca Salazar introduced a legalization bill in the Mexican Congress.
If passed, Salazar’s bill would reform two sections of the country’s General Health Law and allow for both recreational as well as medical use of cannabis. There would also be allowances for a Mexican CBD industry — if passed, Salazar’s proposal would allow for the “textile use of the plant,” according to the senator.
Under Salazar’s proposal, official state sanction from the Ministry of Health would be required to cultivate, process, transport and possess cannabis.
The reasons why will all sound familiar: Prohibition has empowered organized crime (though narcos have largely abandoned cannabis as a cash crop in favor of harder drugs, Mexico’s drug cartels and their cartoonishly heinous acts need no introduction) and has failed to bolster the health or welfare of the state and its citizens.
Ironically, though popular worldwide and in other countries, legalization is not very popular in Mexico, at all. As a 2018 survey from the country’s Center for Social Studies and Public Opinion found, only half of Mexican citizens approve marijuana legalization and 70% disapprove of recreational use, though 90% support medical cannabis, as the Washington Post reported.
What happens next? More talking, and then maybe some lawmaking. Next week, the Congress of the Union will hear from a series of experts exactly how to best regulate and tax cannabis. In the meantime, the proposal will be heard in several committees.
Cannabis reform has come slowly in Mexico despite several clear instructions from the courts to speed things along and legalize.
The first came in 2017, when the Supreme Court also ruled that banning medical marijuana was unconstitutional — though in the interim period, there has been little progress. The courts took notice: In August, the court ordered health authorities to publish “within 180 days” guidelines for how medical cannabis might be obtained, grown, and sold.
Legendary among old-school heads who bore modern-day terp-hunters with tales of heady highs gleaned from Acapulco Gold, Mexican cannabis may be ideal to compete on the growing global market. Unlike Canada, now the world’s largest exporter of cannabis flower and oil, Mexico has an ideal climate and cheap labor costs, as the The Washington Post noticed.
And entrepreneurs are getting ready. Last week, Mexico City hosted the fifth incarnation of ExpoWeed, the country’s largest cannabis convocation. And in Tijuana, the once-notorious border city riven by drug-fueled cartel violence, the city’s first head shop has opened for business.
“Legal weed here is going to happen, but probably not for another year,” the head shop’s owner told WeedMaps’s news vertical.
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