GETTING CAUGHT UP:
Mexico’s legalization of marijuana has been a slow but steady process since the decriminalization of small amounts of the drug in 2009. The purpose was to free police and security services to focus on traffickers rather than individuals using personal amounts. Since then, this same purpose has been advanced by politicians and citizens to enact changes in the law regarding an individual’s right to produce and use this plant. In 2015, three Supreme Court rulings began to set a precedent and pathway for the full legalization of marijuana. One of those rulings was in favor of Graciela Elizalde, an 8 year old child with a rare form of epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. She argued that the use of CBD oil drastically reduced her seizures and improved her quality of life. This was a major factor in bringing attention to the medicinal benefits of CBD. Another Supreme Court case was brought by a group of activists from the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use (SMART). The court ruled 4-1 that it was unconstitutional for the government to prohibit the growing of marijuana by individuals for personal consumption, as it violated the “human right to free development of one’s personality”. This ruling did not mean changes to the law, but allowed four individuals to receive permits to cultivate and use personal amounts of marijuana, as well as open up the possibility of future legal actions that would ultimately force a rewrite of the law.
In late 2017, President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a bill that effectively legalized medical marijuana in Mexico. The bill required Cofepris—Mexico’s Ministry of Health—to draft and implement regulations for pharmaceutical derivatives of marijuana with less than 1% THC. Fast forward a year, and the Ministry of Health is just now beginning to unveil their plans to introduce the first 38 approved products to the market. These 38 new products include 21 supplements, 9 cosmetics, 6 food products, and 2 “raw material” products. The two products from raw material are oil based extracts. Cofepris has permitted seven companies to produce these. Of those seven, four are from Mexico, two from the United States, and one is Spanish. You can expect to find these products for sale in early 2019, and they will be available online.
In late October 2018, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled in favor of two more legal challenges against the prohibition of recreational marijuana. These two rulings completed the five necessary to create precedence, and will require the rewriting of the nation’s drug laws. It is yet to be known if Congress will use this as an opportunity to overhaul the law in order to allow for taxation and commercial sales, or a more limited approach that would cover possession and consumption—but not sales. The latter seems more likely as a bill has already been submitted that would cover the regulation of the commercial market. Either way, next year people will be able to possess and consume personal amounts of marijuana legally.
Earlier this year, then Senator Olga Sanchez Cordero—who has since been tapped as new Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s Interior Minister—submitted a bill to Congress that would legalize the possession, use, growth, and sale of marijuana. This bill, if passed, will not only legalize the production, possession, and consumption of marijuana, but establish regulations for the commercialization of the product. It would allow every Mexican to legally grow up to 20 plants, but no more than 17 ounces a year, as well as consume publicly as long as it does not impede the rights of other citizens. The Morena party, of which Obrador and Sanchez are a part, have a majority in both houses of Congress, which could make for relatively easy passage. However, there are certain conservative and religious factions of Morena that foreshadow the potential for tough negotiations in the future. Now with the bill headed to committee, we will have to let the sometimes painfully slow legislative process to play out before we will see any dispensaries.
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