As of Wednesday afternoon, Mexico is one step closer to becoming the world’s largest licensed cannabis economy. The country’s lower legislative house, also known as the Chamber of Deputies, approved legislation to regulate recreational marijuana by a healthy margin of 316 to 129 votes, with 23 abstentions.
The bill was already approved by the Senate, but underwent modifications leading up to the lower house’s vote, with amendments being discussed into the night on Wednesday.
The legislation will now return to the Senate where it will likely be approved, according to representatives from President AMLO’s Morena Party, which holds the majority in both legislative chambers.
The bill will allow individuals over the age of 18 to possess up to 28 grams of flower, and cultivate up to six plants (or eight per household) for personal use. Conviction of the possession of over 200 grams could still result in jail time, however. Cannabis clubs will be limited to 20 members, and there will be strict restrictions on how many plants can be grown in one facility.
More than two years have passed since the Mexican Supreme Court declared that it was everyones’ constitutional right to consume and cultivate cannabis.
That decision made no mention of a commercial industry. it focused entirely on individual liberties as the basis for cannabis legalization. But there’s reasonable suspicion to believe the government has veered from its original intent. Many advocacy groups fear that foreign corporations have already lined legislators’ pockets to ensure they can easily do business in the country, ultimately changing how legalization will impact consumer rights and rural and indigenous communities.
Among the bill’s modifications were the streamlining of business licenses, which is essentially designed to help larger (read: better funded) cannabis companies; and the elimination of affirmative action measures meant to benefit communities that have been impacted by Mexico’s bloody War on Drugs.
The Chamber of Deputies’ bill also institutes a mandatory permit for those wishing to grow their own marijuana — one that will need to be renewed annually. The Senate’s proposal of a stand-alone federal agency dedicated to cannabis regulation was rejected.
Some politicians hope that cannabis legalization will help reduce Drug War-driven violence in the country — though, the bill’s recent modifications deprioritizing the communities most vulnerable to cartel control has somewhat dampened their enthusiasm.
Lucía Riojas Martínez is the legislator who famously passed a joint to Olga Sánchez Cordero, Mexico’s first woman Secretary of the Interior, on the Congress floor in 2019. Riojas told the New York Times that legalization “is an important step toward building peace in a country like ours, where for at least a decade or more, we’ve been immersed in an absurd war. But this bill falls short of achieving that.”
A recent DEA report suggests that cannabis trafficking by Mexican cartels has fallen dramatically as state-by-state legalization progresses in the US. Mexican drug justice groups like Regulación por la Paz now call for the decriminalization of all drugs, particularly the poppy used by cartels to manufacture heroin and other opioids for US and other foreign consumers.
International cannabis firms are titillated over the prospect of accessing the 126 million-person Mexican market. Reuters reported that Colombian-Canadian company Khiron Life Sciences, Canada’s Canopy Growth, The Green Organic Dutchman, and California’s Medical Marijuana, Inc. are some of the businesses salivating to penetrate the still-gestating industry.
There will most certainly be a steep learning curve about cannabis issues in Mexico, where recent polls put resistance to legalization at 58 percent.
Wednesday’s debate in the Chamber of Deputies made it clear that even the country’s political leaders have a lot to learn when it comes to cannabis use.
“After just three bites of a chocolate cake with 550mg of THC, a person can trip for four days,” one legislator said in her comments to the general assembly. “That’s what they want! That’s what they want!”
The video of her remarks was quickly recycled by an enterprising Mexican cannabis community that learned long ago to temper its expectations regarding how much politicians actually know about drug issues. Cannativa, a cultivation and extraction teaching platform, employed the clip for social media promotion of its upcoming clinical dosing course.