This was supposed to be a decisive year for the cannabis industry in Mexico.
But amid the coronavirus outbreak, a draft bill to legalize cannabis for medical, adult, and industrial uses has been stalled in the Senate one month before a Supreme Court deadline requiring that lawmakers pass such a bill.
The COVID-19 outbreak has upended legislative efforts globally, including in Mexico. The Supreme Court of Justice suspended many of its legislative procedures until at least April 19. The Senate did the same, at least until mid-April. Lawmakers have acknowledged that this means they will probably miss deadlines to pass certain bills, including the draft cannabis legislation that, as Cannabis Wire previously reported, was approved by three key Senate committees last month.
Senator Patricia Mercado, from Movimiento Ciudadano Party, says that the suspension of the Supreme Court will likely translate to lawmakers being granted more time to work on the cannabis bill.
“The deadline should be extended to May 30, a month, which is how long the Court suspended its activities,” Mercado told Cannabis Wire.
On March 27, Senators asked the Supreme Court to “extend deadlines” until “the Senate is in a position to fulfill the responsibilities towards judiciary power bodies.” But it is unclear whether the high court will reply to the request any time soon.
A landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2018 declared it unconstitutional to ban the use of cannabis, and the Court set an October 2019 deadline for lawmakers to pass a bill to legalize its use. But after the Senate failed to reach a consensus, the Court granted a six-month extension until April 30. Three Senate commissions approved a draft bill on March 4, bringing the country one step closer to an historic shift. But there is still a long way to go.
Although the Court emphasized in October that there would be no additional extensions granted, Mercado thinks that under the current circumstances amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Court will most likely give lawmakers more time.
“The Supreme Court can tell us that because we are an essential activity we must meet the established deadline, but that would be a real problem,” Mercado said.
She adds that some 30 senators would have to convene electronic meetings on individual articles that remain up for debate and are subject to modifications, then send the final version of the cannabis bill to the lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, and expect them to approve it quickly. All before the end of April.
“This would be a very complicated scenario,” she said.
Even if lawmakers miss the April 30 deadline, cannabis could still be legalized in 2020. According to Mercado, lawmakers could discuss the draft bill remotely and meet in person in the summer to approve it. In such a case, she hopes, the draft bill would be signed into law before September 2020.