Cannabis regulation in Mexico has been in limbo for years, and it looks like it will stay there for a while.
The Mexican Congress has been trying to pass significant cannabis legislation since 2019, but its first attempt of 2022 did not get off to a good start. A few hours after a group of senators announced a new draft bill to regulate cannabis in the country, other lawmakers—from the same party—rejected it.
The skirmish unfolded this way: In her first session as president of the Health Commission on February 15, Senator Lilia Margarita Valdez Martínez announced that the Justice Commission had turned a draft bill on the regulation of the use of cannabis over to the Health Commission to be analyzed and possibly approved. She asked the members of the commission to read and analyze the proposal, “and make any comments that we need to make quickly.” The senator, who is a member of the ruling Morena party, explained that the Health Commission would meet with the Justice and Legislative Studies Commissions “to see if we can resolve this issue in a few days.”
Members of her own party, however, said, in effect, “not so fast.” Just hours later Senator Ricardo Monreal, coordinator of Morena’s parliamentary group in the Senate, said that the proposal made public by the Health Commission is only preliminary.
“We are not going to rush into anything,” he said, adding that the draft that was circulating “is a pre-draft that has to be pondered.” He added, “It is not consensual, it has not been ruled on and it does not have the endorsement of the parliamentary groups.”
Monreal said the proposal still had “some way to go.” “It is incomplete, it is insufficient. We will act in a coordinated manner. It must be a very consensual law,” Monreal told reporters.
Thus the stalemate over cannabis in Mexico continues. Back in October 2018, the nation’s Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to approve a legalization bill before October 2019. But lawmakers failed to reach a consensus on the matter and then COVID-19 delayed the discussion.
After the Senate passed a legalization bill in November 2020, the Chamber of Deputies asked the Supreme Court for an additional extension to review the legislation and make amendments. The Court granted lawmakers until April 30, 2021 to discuss and approve the bill.
The lower house of Congress made revisions and sent the bill back to the Senate, but several senators objected to the Chamber of Deputies’ amendments. Ultimately, the Senate missed the April deadline and chose not to request a new extension.
In June 2021, the Supreme Court declared that the prohibition of recreational use of cannabis was unconstitutional. Although the decision did not totally legalize cannabis, it allowed Mexico’s residents to request permission to legally consume at home. The Supreme Court, in the same ruling, urged Congress to pass legislation in order to generate legal certainty for users to exercise their right.
Despite the high court’s mandate, Senator Gustavo Madero, from the opposition PAN party, does not believe the regulation will pass this year or even the next.
“We have read draft bills, we have had discussions, amendments have been issued, the Congress has met, but at the end of the day something happens and it does not become law and I believe that this will remain so until the end of this administration in 2024,” Madero told Cannabis Wire. He contends that cannabis regulation has been “delayed” by president Andrés Manuel López Obrador because it is not part of his “agenda.”
López Obrador, who was elected in 2018, has expressed support for medical use, and some members of his party—Morena—are seemingly moving ahead on adult use regulation in Congress. But he does not have a clear public stance towards adult use cannabis.
In response to the Supreme Court’s 2021 decision on cannabis, the president said that although he respected the decision, he did not rule out backing a law to reverse it.
“If we see that it does not help, that it is not good for the country, that it is not helpful to face the serious problem of drug addiction, that it is not good to stop violence, then we would act,” López Obrador said.