The Mexican government appears increasingly likely to legalize cannabis on a federal level, potentially making Mexico the biggest legal weed market in the world.
The move would amount to a massive u-turn after decades of prohibitionist policies led to the explosive growth of transnational drug cartels – and local cartel wars – in the Latin American nation, with demand from the U.S. fueling violence and crime.
According to Mexican Senate leader Ricardo Monreal of the ruling MORENA party, a cannabis legalization bill will be presented to the lawmaking body at some point within the next two weeks and is “likely to pass,” reports Los Angeles Times. The bill would enable private companies to sell the plant and its derivative products to the public.
If the Mexican Senate approves the bill, it will move on to the Chamber of Deputies – the lower house of Mexico’s bicameral Congress – where it is also believed to be likely to pass.
The move could finally determine the fate of cannabis legalization efforts in Mexico. Advocates of legalization have long argued that legalizing the plant would allow the country to advance alternative drug policies, halt the criminalization of drug users and refocus its security efforts to better address public health.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, popularly known by his initials AMLO, has long endorsed the need to radically reform the country’s laws to put an end to rampant drug violence in Mexico, where drug cartels still hold sway over the illicit trade of narcotics.
In a policy proposal for AMLO’s National Development Plan for 2019-2024, the government argues that the current “prohibitionist strategy is unsustainable,” adding that “the ‘war on drugs’ has escalated the public health problem posed by currently banned substances to a public safety crisis.” The document also notes that an end to prohibition is “the only real possibility” in terms of addressing the crisis.
Former President Vicente Fox Quesada of the National Action Party (PAN), which is bitterly opposed to AMLO’s MORENA party on nearly every issue, has also been a vocal proponent of legalization efforts. In a tweet Thursday, Fox further affirmed the need to legalize the use of the “wonder plant” of cannabis.
The country been on a steady path toward legalization for years, and gained momentum in 2018 after a Supreme Court ruling that the prohibition of cannabis was a constitutional violation of the people’s right to the “free development of personality.” The court further instructed the legislature to pass a bill permitting the legal use of the plant within a year. The court granted an extension until Dec. 15, 2020, after legislators failed to meet the deadline.
This past August, the president reminded the public that lawmakers would continue working on legalizing the plant after their return from summer break.
Under the bill, adults over 18 will be allowed to cultivate and possess up to 28 grams of cannabis for personal use. Possession of up to 200 grams would also be decriminalized.
Individuals would be allowed to grow up to 20 plants provided their annual yield isn’t in excess of 480 grams. Medical patients would be able to grow over 20 plants, if necessary. Public consumption of cannabis would also be allowed in all spaces besides those marked as “100 percent smoke-free.”
Cannabis sales would also be subject to a 12 percent tax, with revenue going toward drug abuse programs. The new laws and regulations would be enforced and overseen by the Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis.
Advocates have also expressed caution about moving forward while taking into account social equity concerns and safeguards to prevent transnational corporations from monopolizing the massive, burgeoning weed market in the North American country.
Echoing cannabis reform advocates across the world, social movement group México Unido tweeted that any bill that passes must prevent the monopolization of the market by big multinationals while simultaneously addressing the “matter of distributing the benefits of the market among those who have been most affected” by the long, tragic prohibition of m********.
Activists in Mexico City have been growing, harvesting, and consuming cannabis in “The Garden of Maria” since last February. The garden lies in a small plot of land just adjacent to the Senate building in the capital city. Police have not bothered to shut the garden down, giving strength to advocates for legalization who hope to finally close the chapter of the failed years-long war on drugs in Mexico.