Mexico’s Senate is prepared to vote on a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use, bringing the country one step closer to an historic shift that could make it one of the world’s largest legal cannabis markets.
During a virtual meeting on Friday, after a rather calm discussion, members of the Senate´s Health, Justice, and Legislative Studies commissions announced they will vote to pass the bill on Wednesday. They will meet face-to-face, as required by Congress.
The road to cannabis legalization in Mexico has been winding. Lawmakers are following a Supreme Court order that requires them to finalize rules about cannabis regulation in the country. The Court ruled in 2018 that it is unconstitutional to ban the use of cannabis, 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. The three Senate commissions approved a draft bill in March, as Cannabis Wire reported, 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 December 15.
The draft bill that was circulated ahead of Friday’s meeting included several amendments to the March version.
The proposal would allow adults 18 and older to possess and cultivate up to four cannabis plants for personal use. It specifies that planting and cultivating cannabis plants will not be punishable when the activities are carried out for “industrial, research and adult use.” The draft bill would also allow licensed entities to sell legal cannabis for adult-use. Personal possession would be capped at 28 grams, but possession of up to 200 grams would be decriminalized.
The biggest change since March is that medical cannabis is not included in the new version, which regulates only adult use cannabis and industrial hemp. Regulations for medical cannabis, after lengthy delays, are now expected early next year.
The bill would also create the Mexican Institute for Regulation and Cannabis Control within the Health Ministry.
The regulation bans the consumption of cannabis products in public places, including shopping malls, parks, amusement parks, stadiums and sports facilities, as well as places where smoking is not allowed. It also forbids consumption where individuals under the age of 18 are present.
The amended draft bill, like the previous version, includes a series of penalties for violating rules concerning consumption, distribution and other activities, which consist of warnings, fines, and loss of licenses.
But unlike the March version, this one contemplates citizen-filed complaints if the regulation is not followed, and surveillance visits to consumers. Though, the requirement to obtain permission for self-cultivation, which was in the March version, is excluded in the latest version.
During Friday’s meeting, Patricia Mercado, from Movimiento Ciudadano party, began by saying that the draft bill fails to respect people’s personal liberties.
“There continues to be interference in people’s private lives,” she said. “We do not get into how many bottles of alcohol people have in their homes.”
Senator Alejandra Reynoso, of the National Action Party (PAN), criticized that the most important aspect of the proposal, the medical regulation, was discarded from the document.
Another PAN Senator, Damián Zepeda, said that he was concerned about youth use.
“I am a father of three children and I do not see anything positive in them going to the corner shop to buy marijuana,” he said.
Activists say that although it is time to regulate cannabis in the country, there are several aspects of the proposal that need to be improved.
Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA, a research institute that promotes drug policy, told Cannabis Wire that while the actual substance of the text did not change drastically, she’s concerned because consumption “continues to be criminalized” as the law proposes new penalties.
After the Senate commissions approve the amended bill on Wednesday, the bill will advance to the Senate floor. After the bill clears the Senate, it will be considered in the Chamber of Deputies.