MEXICO CITY — Lawmakers in Mexico approved a bill Wednesday night to legalize recreational cannabis which creates the largest market for cannabis in the world, eclipsing their neighbor, California. The measure is widely expected to be agreed by the Senate, before being sent to President Manuel Obrador, who has said he would sign the legislation.
The 316-129 vote in Mexico’s congress, the Chamber of Deputies, came two years after Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled their ban on recreational cannabis was unconstitutional. Mexico legalized medical cannabis in 2017.
The measure, would allow adults to smoke cannabis and, with a permit, grow a small number of cannabis plants at home. It would also grant licenses for producers — from small farmers to commercial growers — to cultivate and sell the crop.
If passed, as looks likely, Mexico would join Canada and Uruguay in a small but growing list of countries that have legalized cannabis in the Americas, adding further momentum to the legalization movement in the region. In the United States, Democrats in the Senate have also promised to scrap federal prohibition of cannabis this year.
But it’s unlikely that the new law will stop the cartels. Already 15 American states having now legalized cannabis, the crop has become a relatively small part of the Mexican drug trafficking business. Cartels are focusing on more profitable products like fentanyl and methamphetamines. The Mexican government’s limited resources are unable to defeat the wealthy organized crime groups.
With the passing of the bill, Mexico, with more than 120 million people, would represent the largest cannabis market in the world by population.
The crop could become big business in Mexico, a potential financial lift for an economy badly battered by the coronavirus crisis. “It’s an excellent economic, natural, ethical and moral solution for a country in need,” said Juan Sánchez Mejorada, chief executive of Ceres Soluciones, a medicinal cannabis company. “Today we are in a historic moment,” said Simey Olvera, a lawmaker with the governing Morena party. “With this, the false belief that cannabis is part of Mexico’s serious public health problems is left behind,” according to reporting from the New York Times.
Advocates of the new law fear that the law will overly favor large corporations that could obtain what the bill terms an “integral license,” giving them access to the entire cannabis supply chain, while leaving small-scale producers and vendors locked out of the lucrative market.
The new bill would allow individual users to carry up to 28 grams of cannabis and grow six cannabis plants at home. Cannabis could also be purchased by adults over 18 at authorized businesses, and grown at larger scale by licensed groups. Medical cannabis would be regulated separately by the health ministry, which published rules in January covering the growing and research of medicinal cannabis.
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