MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s lower house of parliament on Wednesday approved a bill to legalize marijuana, putting the country on the path to becoming one of the world’s largest legal marijuana markets.
The deputies approved the legislation in the general sense, but discussed the details late at night. The enacted legislation, which is to be returned to the Senate, will allow the use of marijuana for recreation, but will create a system of licenses necessary for the entire chain of production, distribution, conversion and sale.
It would also require individuals, not just user associations, to have permission to grow plants for personal use. Each individual is allowed to have six plants per maximum of eight families.
Adults could use marijuana without affecting others or children, but if they caught more than one ounce (28 grams), they would be fined. They could go to jail if they weighed more than 12 pounds (5.6 kilograms).
Opposition parties did not support the legislation, which they said would lead to an increase in drug use.
In 2015, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of recreational marijuana use. In 2019, the court instructed the government to draft legislation, arguing that banning its use was unconstitutional.
The court gave lawmakers until April 30 to pass a law.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has voiced support, saying his party, Morena, has a majority in Congress that is passing legislation. Still, with the campaign for the national legislative elections in June, the final wave of legislation is still evolving.
Critics fear that some of the changes made by the lower house could jeopardize the original intention.
For example, in the latest version, lawmakers stopped creating a new state body specifically to regulate marijuana. Instead, the management of the new market will be transferred to the National Anti-Addiction Commission, which, according to experts, does not have the capacity to regulate such a complex thing.
“They will make the law ineffective,” said Lisa Sanchez, director of the Mexican Crime Control, a non-governmental organization that has been demanding the legalization of marijuana for years.
Lawmakers in favor of the bill say it will take the marijuana market out of the hands of Mexico’s powerful drug cartels into government.
But experts fear that transnational corporations will be the primary beneficiaries rather than the consumers or farmers who make up the bottom of the drug chain.
The use of medicinal marijuana has been legal in Mexico since 2017 and is allowed in a number of other Latin American countries. But only Uruguay allows the use of recreation in the region.
Even if the Senate approved the lower house bill without further amendment, it would take time for it to enter into force. An entire regulatory framework had to be developed. This was the case with medical marijuana, which only came into force in January with the approval of the necessary regulations.