The Mexican Senate has finally granted approval to cannabis reforms in the region after stalling the debate for almost two long years.
Earlier this month, senators were circulating a draft bill on the issue in hopes of getting these cannabis reforms moved to the full Senate floor for approval. Luckily for them, a joint hearing session was finally held today after being delayed for months due to the pandemic.
The Senate floor has cast 82 votes in favor of the bill, while 18 votes were cast against it. Moreover, about 7 senators abstained from voicing their opinion on the issue.
Although a big accomplishment for legalization advocates, the bill still has to surpass major hurdles before reforms can be fully implemented. Upon success, these changes will make Mexico the third country to fully legalize adult-use marijuana after Uruguay and Canada.
Many legalization advocates are hoping that lawmakers would now use this opportunity to devise policies that could have positive impacts on society. According to some, this move can be a ‘historic opportunity’ to ‘repair the harms of prohibition’ inflicted upon the residents of the community.
Moving forwards, the legalization bill still has to gain approval from the lower legislative chamber and get signatures from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. This will only be possible if the President doesn’t have any reservations about the legislatures proposed through the bill and signs it into the law.
Supreme Court issues deadline for cannabis reform implementation
In October of 2019, the Supreme Court had granted an extension to legislators to thoroughly review the issue. When senators were unable to reach a consensus, the new deadline was moved to April 2020. However, due to restrictions on in-person meetings, the process was delayed once again and another extension was granted.
For now, the new deadline set by the Supreme Court is December 15th. Senate President Eduardo Ramirez is hopeful that this time the legislative reforms would be achieved within the due date set by the court.
Cannabis Legalization Efforts in Mexico
The issue of cannabis legalization was brought to light when President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador assumed office in 2018. According to Senator Olga Sanchez Coredo, the prohibition of marijuana has claimed thousands of lives, fed violence, and magnified poverty in the nation. “We don’t want more deaths. It will be a major contribution to bringing peace to our beloved country.”
This announcement was in line with Supreme Court rulings that lifted the legal ban on the drug. Prohibition of the drug was deemed unconstitutional after this ruling. All other courts had to follow suit because as per Mexican law if the chamber of the Supreme Court has the same ruling on any matter five or more times, the decision becomes a compulsory precedent for all other courts and judges.
Proposals Made in the Cannabis-Reform Bill in Mexico
Although the legislative process has been distraught with a lot of delays, it has made some noticeable progress nonetheless.
Earlier in March, a joint meeting was held between the members of Justice, Health, Legislative Studies, and Public Safety Committees. During this meeting, the Mexican Senate Committees signed off the bill that made the following proposed cannabis reforms:
- There would be separate regulations on THC products that would not be applicable to hemp and CBD.
- Adults 18 or above can possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. The possession limit is set at 28 grams, although holding up to 200 grams is still decriminalized.
- Public consumption of the drug would be legal, provided it is carried out in completely smoke-free zones.
- These adults will be allowed to grow up to 20 registered plants; provided the cumulative yield stays under 480 grams per year.
- Medical marijuana patients will be allowed to cultivate more than 20 plants upon proper request applications.
- There will be a 12% tax imposed on cannabis sales, with part of the proceeds allocated towards substance abuse treatment.
- The Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis would responsible for moderating and licensing marijuana businesses.
Although the legislative changes depict significant flexibility of law, advocates demand more to be done. One of their major concerns is the high level of penalties that will be imposed on individuals for rule violations. They are also pressing for ensuring equal opportunities in the industry for all.