Cannabis legalization will once again be a topic of discussion among Mexico’s lawmakers this week. The country could become the world’s largest legal cannabis market if the Chamber of Deputies complies with a Supreme Court mandate to legalize cannabis before the end of April.
The Court granted lawmakers until April 30, the final day of the Congressional session, to discuss and finally approve a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use in the country. But, the legislation’s path has so far been rocky.
In a 2018 ruling, Mexico’s Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to prohibit the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis, and it set an October 2019 deadline for lawmakers to pass a bill to legalize it. After the Senate failed to reach a consensus by deadline, the Court granted a six-month extension until April 30, 2020. But, as Cannabis Wire reported, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the deadline to legalize cannabis was postponed again to December 15.
The Senate passed a bill in November, 82-18, but the Chamber of Deputies requested an extension to review it and make amendments.
On Monday, the legislation will be considered in the Chamber’s Health and Justice committees. The draft bill that was circulated ahead of Monday’s meeting has few significant changes from the version passed by the Senate. Therefore, it is expected to advance to the full Chamber for a vote on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The proposal still allows those over the age of 18 to cultivate up to six cannabis plants for personal use. The draft bill also caps personal possession at 28 grams, but possession of up to 200 grams would be decriminalized.
One noteworthy amendment: Instead of establishing a new regulatory body to oversee the implementation of the cannabis program, as was approved by the Senate, the Chamber’s legislation would give that authority to an existing agency, the National Commission Against Addictions.
Some lawmakers and advocates are unhappy with this version of legalization in Mexico.
“There are issues that still seem to us as setbacks,” Martha Tagle Martínez, a deputy with the Citizens Movement party, a member of the chamber’s Health Committee, and a longtime supporter of legalization, told Cannabis Wire. “And what worries us when there is overregulation, is that the black market will continue to exist.”
She said the bill approved in the Senate does not fulfill the requirements of the Supreme Court. For example, in order to cultivate cannabis at home, a person must register with the government, which reform advocates say is excessive oversight.
“The draft bill violates the fundamental right to the free development of the personality of cannabis consumers because it does not guarantee they will not be persecuted or criminalized,” she said, referencing the Supreme Court ruling that outlined this right when it ordered lawmakers to end cannabis prohibition.
She added that lawmakers have an obligation to consumers, who have been demanding access to cannabis for years.
“I hope that something comes out of this discussion. But if it doesn’t, I would prefer that the Court would not give another extension, because at first the excuse was the pandemic, but now it would rather be a clear sign that legislators do not want it to come out.”
The current bill aims to legalize adult use cannabis and industrial hemp but excludes medical cannabis. The Ministry of Health, as Cannabis Wire reported, published those regulations in January.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has backed the bill, albeit tepidly.
A floor vote is expected in the Chamber of Deputies on March 9.