Last Saturday, Mexico ushered in a new president.
On his third try, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who spoke in favor of legalizing cannabis during his campaign, became head of state. He also chose Olga Sánchez Cordero as his Interior Secretary, a former member of the Supreme Court and senator who proposed a robust regulatory framework that encompasses medical and adult use legalization shortly before taking on her new role.
For perspective on the future of the cannabis industry in the Americas, Cannabis Wire editor and co-founder Alyson Martin and Cannabis Wire reporter Julia Barajas sat down at the Four Seasons on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with former President of Mexico Vicente Fox, who is now director of Khiron Life Sciences Corp., one of the many Canadian cannabis companies taking root in Latin America.
(Cannabis Wire today published a story about Canadian cannabis investments in Colombia, including by Khiron. Read it here.)
On Tuesday afternoon, Fox expressed strong support for Mexico’s push toward legalization. When Cannabis Wire pointed out that its proposed legislation does not redress those who have been imprisoned as a result of prohibition, the former president said: “That’s not a problem for Mexico”— even though the law itself points to the scores of people who are incarcerated for consumption or simple possession.
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The following, an excerpt from the interview, has been edited for clarity:
Alyson Martin (AM): Have you always been in favor of legalizing cannabis? And, if not, when did that change of heart, or mind, happen?
Vicente Fox (VF): I think everything is a process. I’ve been working on this, as an activist for legalization, for slightly over ten years now. Being invited to many conferences to be a community participant in the industry, I learned further that legalization could not only be an issue to reduce violence, but also could be a very important economic issue. That this could be a new industry, that this could bring in new jobs, new growth to our economies, and a good return to investors. And with that, I’ve been pursuing in every market the idea of legalization. Finally, I joined Khiron as a member of the board through an invitation they made to me, and I’m very pleased and happy to say that now we’re a formula, we’re a team working to expand markets, to extend legalization to other countries and economies, and to make sure that this industry is a good citizen that is socially responsible, and that is going to be working with transparency, accountability, and all of this is our action challenge.
AM: Which other world leaders have you been talking to? Which other countries do you think will be next to legalize?
VF: Well, I mostly read and hear about other leaders supporting the legalization process, starting with the United Nations . . . leaders like former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, former President Ricardo Lagos of Chile, and former President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico have also publicly expressed their support, but none of them have moved beyond words. The only activist, the guy who took the responsibility to make things happen, is myself. So, I notice a lot of people in the world that support legalization, but very few are acting to make things come true.
AM: Have you been in touch with President Donald Trump or anybody from his administration on legalization?
VF: No, no. I have not been in contact with President Trump. I don’t want to be in contact with President Trump. I think he is the most and worst historical mistake this nation has done to elect him as president. Now this nation is paying the consequences. The economy of the United States is paying the consequences. In the world, we’re paying the consequences. And I don’t see any person happy with this so-called President.
AM: It looks like the STATES Act, though, could pass during his administration.
VF: What Trump should be doing is forget about his conservatism, forget about his ignorance about how the economy and the world is working today. He should go for legalization at the federal level, because now Canada is taking the lead, because now Mexico is about to legalize both medical and recreational use, and the United States is staying behind. I’m sure all the states that have approved, all the investments and businesses that have been created through those legalizations, are suffering from this inconsistent situation where federal government prohibits and local governments permit.
AM: Have you been in touch at all with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about legalization?
VF: No, I have not had the fortune to meet with him, but he’s a great millennial Prime Minister. He’s making courageous, right, visionary decisions. And it’s paying off. I mean, what Canada is doing right now, the investment it has attracted, the wealth it’s creating, the jobs that are being created, the corporations that are being created— it’s incredible. Canada right now is the worldwide leader for the cannabis industry. And Mexico will be pretty soon because no further than June of next year we’ll have legalized recreational use. So, Mexico will become a leading nation in this field.
AM: Do you think that Mexico legalizing would create any kind of tension or problems with the US border?
VF: We don’t care. We have the state of California that has legalized both, and the relationship between Mexico and California is fantastic. Our trade balance is incredible. And I’m sure once Mexico legalizes, we’re going to be trading among ourselves. The state of California and Mexico. Marijuana. Cannabis. Medical Products. And production. What this world needs is open trading, open markets for all products. And this should happen with marijuana.
AM: Do you think Mexico will surpass the United States because you won’t have the patchwork the United States has?
VF: Right. Mexico’s will be federal legalization for the whole of the nation. And they’re going to be a very open government to the promotion and growth of this industry in Mexico and, if possible, internationally. Mexico can be maybe the most competitive producer of cannabis because we have shown that we have that capacity in food products, in berries, in broccoli, in cauliflower. Mexico is the champion of competitiveness, the champion of trading food products, agricultural products. And cannabis will not be different to that.