Mexico: Senate Passes Bill To Legalize Cannabis

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Mexico’s Senate on Thursday approved a bill to legalize cannabis for adult-use, complying with a mandate given by the Supreme Court for lawmakers to approve the legislation by December 15. 

The bill now has to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies and receive President Andres Manuel López Obrador’s signature to become law. While he has expressed support for medical use, and his party is moving ahead on adult use legalization, his position on the issue remains unclear. 

In February, during one of his daily press briefings, one comment in particular sparked speculation. He said, in response to a question about cannabis, that the government would guarantee access “to those who require it for medical purposes only, for health purposes only.”

On Wednesday, the Senate’s Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies commissions decided to advance the legislation to the Senate floor, where 82 lawmakers voted to approve the bill, while 18 rejected it, and 7 abstained from voting.

The bill, which has been amended since senators initially approved it in March, regulates the cultivation, production, distribution, sale, and consumption of cannabis.  The law will allow adults 18 and older to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of cannabis, and to cultivate up to six plants for personal use (eight if more than one consumer lives under the same roof). The bill would also expunge criminal records related to the possession of cannabis.

Consuming cannabis will only be allowed in people’s homes or inside of cannabis associations, which are defined as “groups of two to 20 people that will be allowed to plant, cultivate, harvest, prepare and consume cannabis.” Also, consumption will be prohibited in front of minors and adults who have not consented to the use of cannabis in their presence. 

The law does not include the regulation of cannabis for medicinal use, which has drawn criticism from some senators.

“This bill is exclusively for those who want to smoke a joint for fun, that’s what it is,” said Damián Zepeda, affiliated with the National Action Party (PAN), whose members have opposed the bill from day one. Zepeda complained that the law was being imposed on Mexicans, the majority of whom, according to polls, do not support cannabis legalization.

Lawmakers have left medicinal regulation in the hands of the Ministry of Health, which was ordered by the Supreme Court to draft rules to create a regulatory framework for the country’s medical cannabis law by September 9, but missed the deadline, as Cannabis Wire reported.

On Thursday, in the Senate chamber, there were signs brought by Citizens’ Movement  and Morena party lawmakers that read: “The time has come to regulate,”  and, “No to criminalization. Yes to freedom.” 

Senator Julio Menchaca, of the Morena party, said that adult use cannabis legalization, which he supports, is one of the most controversial issues in the legislature and “a real challenge” for the country. 

Senator Silvana Beltrones, of the PRI party, expressed her agreement with the bill because “consumers should not be treated as criminals, but as patients.”

“We should not criminalize addictions, but generate a strategy with adequate and sufficient information. Only in this way will we change the punitive and criminal approach of the prohibitionist policy given to cannabis,” she said.

President Andres Manuel López Obrador’s Morena party is leading the task of complying with the Supreme Court’s order to regulate cannabis. In 2018, the Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban the use of cannabis in Mexico, and set an October 2019 deadline for lawmakers to pass a bill to legalize its use. The Court granted a six-month extension, until April 30, after the Senate failed to reach a consensus in October, but amid the coronavirus outbreak, the draft bill to legalize cannabis was stalled again. The Court pushed back the deadline for lawmakers to enact the policy change, which is now due by the middle of next month.

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