As the United States continues to tally the votes from this week’s midterm elections, Mexico is quietly making moves to legalize cannabis south of the border.
In recent weeks the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the country’s marijuana prohibition law was unconstitutional, leading the Mexican legislature to consider a bill that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis.
Proposed on November 6 by Sen. Olga Sánchez Cordero the General Law for the Regulation and Control of Marijuana would legalize the use, possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis. Sen. Sánchez is a member of the country’s majority party and next-in-line to become President-Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Interior Secretary.
“Today, the nation has taken the decision to change,” she told senators, according to the Guardian. “We don’t want more deaths. It will be a major contribution to bringing peace to our beloved country.”
A new cannabis bureaucracy in Mexico
The General Law would establish rules and protocols for recreational cannabis. Specifically, the bill would create a new bureaucratic branch under the Ministry of Health called the Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis, which would issue licenses and permits for the recreational marijuana industry.
Under the legislation, potential participants in the pot industry would need licenses for the cultivation, harvesting, transportation, processing, and selling of cannabis and related products. The age for legal use would be set at 18 years of age.
The bill also addresses individual use and growth. Cannabis consumers could grow up to 20 mature cannabis plants for personal consumption on private property. There is a production limit for individuals growing cannabis. Specifically, growers cannot produce more than 480 grams of marijuana per year for personal use and would have to register their pot products with regulators.
With today's announcement, we’re gradually moving towards a much-needed framework for legalized cannabis in Mexico. This is something I have long advocated for: it's good for business, for health and importantly for the social fabric of our country. https://t.co/9RfdGEmZOy
— Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue) November 6, 2018
Canada paved the way for Mexican legalization
The bill’s potential success would not be possible without the strong foundation established by the legalization of cannabis in Canada and a surprising decision by the Mexican Supreme Court.
In October, Sen. Sánchez and six other members of President-Elect López Obrador’s soon-to-be-finalized cabinet met with Canadian government officials to discuss the end of cannabis prohibition.
A statement released by Sen. Sánchez’s office described the meeting as being an opportunity for the two nations to discuss various political issues, including the regulation of cannabis use. Canada became the first G7 nation, and the second after Uruguay to legalize cannabis on October 17.
It began with Mexico’s Supreme Court
On Halloween of this year, Mexico’s Supreme Court determined that the country’s marijuana prohibition law was unconstitutional. It wasn’t the first time that the court concluded that prohibition is unconstitutional, but the fifth.
Under Mexico’s legal system, once the Supreme Court reaches a similar decision in five separate cases, a precedent is set, with the rulings then applying to the entire country’s court system.
Mexico’s Supreme Court quickly clarified that this ruling does not legalize cannabis, for now. In a statement shared with the Associated Press, the high court explained that adults have a fundamental right to determine which recreational activities they may pursue without interference from the state.
“That right is not absolute, and the consumption of certain substances may be regulated, but the effects provoked by marijuana do not justify an absolute prohibition of its consumption,” said the judges in the ruling.
Through this ruling, Mexico’s high court ordered the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk to authorize the complainants in the case to consume marijuana, though the court did not authorize the commercialization of these drugs, nor would they allow for the complainants to consume other drugs.