What Will Cannabis Legalization Look Like in Mexico?
Mexico’s senate has approved a bill to legalize cannabis, recreationally. Finally.
The national legislature is now required by the country’s supreme court to implement the bill before December 15.
As such, the central American country is now poised to become not only the third “recreational cannabis nation,” but, due its high population, the world's largest recreational cannabis market.
How implementation will be rolled out, however, is another discussion. In a unique twist, the Mexican government appears to be prioritizing the recreational rather than medical market first.
What does the bill look like?
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico's president, has said, via translation, that legalizing cannabis is "part of carrying out a revolution of the consciences, where each of us is responsible for his actions." This tacit support means that the country's legalization bill is now highly likely to become law without any more delays.
It may have taken two supreme court rulings to get here (both on the medicinal and recreational side) but the language so far looks extremely promising – and not only for Mexicans, but for those globally looking for templates for their own recreational reform efforts. Lawmakers have been working on the bill for the last few years, since the supreme court ruled in 2018 that the prohibition of personal cannabis cultivation was unconstitutional.
The language of the current bill allows adults aged 18 and over to grow up to six plants and to purchase and possess up to 28 grams (approximately 1 ounce) of cannabis for private consumption. Expungement of criminal records of those convicted of possession will also be cleared within six months of the bill’s passage.
The bill would also allow patients access to both their own personal growing licenses and more commercial production. A previous version of the bill would have just allowed those from vulnerable communities to hold more than one license type. But any bill that enshrines the priorities of those from such disadvantaged backgrounds, if passed, would still be a historic first, on a national level.
The medical market remains apart
The bill also covers industrial hemp, but it doesn’t regulate medical cannabis.
Mexico did approve medical cannabis back in 2017 with a reform of its health and criminal law, but that law was never properly implemented. As such, patients have been left without access to legal medical cannabis products.
However, the prioritization on the recreational market could lead to the development of a pharmaceutical or pre-pharmaceutical cultivation sector.
The third recreational market?
Unlike the recent recreational referendum in New Zealand, the Mexican experiment is actually poised to advance the global recreational reform discussion. No other country has had the cannabis legalization issue end up in the highest court of the land, not once but twice, and been mandated with a deadline to force implementation.
For that very reason, Mexico’s legalization bill is a sign for hope for the new year and the larger global conversation about cannabis normalization, which now has a bright future in the decade ahead.
Marguerite Arnold is a journalist and author. Her next book, Green II: Spreading Like Kudzu, about the inside story of the German cannabis cultivation bid, will be published on December 1, 2020.