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Mexican Lawmakers Want Another Marijuana Legalization Deadline Delay

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A bill to legalize marijuana in Mexico is being delayed yet again.

Although the Senate approved the cannabis legislation last month, leaders in the Chamber of Deputies agreed on Wednesday to request another deadline extension from the nation’s Supreme Court.

In late 2018, the court deemed the prohibition on personal use and cultivation of marijuana unconstitutional and told lawmakers to formally end criminalization by October 2019. The deadline has since been moved back at lawmakers’ request several times, most recently to December 15.

Now, legislative leaders are asking the Supreme Court to give them until February to get the cannabis bill across the finish line, Milenio reported.

The Senate approved the legislation—which would establish a regulated cannabis market, allowing adults 18 and older to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants for personal use—in November.

In recent days, several Chamber of Deputies committees took up the bill in hearings with the aim of moving it to a floor vote this week.

But Chamber President Dulce María Sauri said that the body needs more time “to improve the regulatory framework on cannabis.”

“I am sure that the Court, which follows these deliberations very closely, will see that the legislative work is well advanced,” she said. “I am sure that the Supreme Court of Justice will agree to do what is necessary to provide a good regulatory framework in this matter.”

Activists have expressed frustration over certain provisions of the legislation as it is currently drafted, arguing that it does not go far enough to protect consumers’ rights and promote social equity in the legal market. Now, the latest deadline delay, if granted by the court, will give them more time to pressure lawmakers to address their concerns.

There were several revisions made in the Senate prior to last month’s vote, but most of those were technical in nature.

However, there were a some notable changes, such as an increase from the initial limit of four self-cultivated plants per person and to make it so people who grow cannabis for personal use will not be subject to a requirement to have regulators track plants.

An additional change mandates that the government clear criminal records of people with past cannabis convictions within six months.

Lawmakers also removed a prohibition on owning more than one type of marijuana license, allowing for vertical integration of cannabis businesses. A previous version of the bill would have only allowed people from vulnerable communities to hold more than one license type.

Another modification that advocates are not happy with says that nonprofit associations of consumers that collectively cultivate cannabis must be located at least 500 meters from schools, sports and recreation centers and anywhere that third parties who have not given their consent could be exposed to smoke.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said last month that the legislation is “part of carrying out a revolution of consciences, where each of us is responsible for his actions.”

“The development of freedoms is very important,” he said at a press conference.

The legalization bill cleared a joint group of Senate committees prior to the full floor vote, with some amendments being made after members informally considered and debated the proposal during a virtual hearing.

Members of the Senate’s Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies Committees had approved a prior version of legal cannabis legislation in March, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed consideration of the issue.

The legislation makes some attempts to mitigate the influence of large marijuana corporations. For example, it states that for the first five years after implementation, at least 40 percent of cannabis business licenses must be granted to those from indigenous, low-income or historically marginalized communities.

The Mexican Institute of Cannabis would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing licenses.

Public consumption of marijuana would be allowed, except in places where tobacco use is prohibited or at mass gatherings where people under 18 could be exposed.

Households where more than one adult lives would be limited to cultivating a maximum of eight plants. The legislation also says people “should not” consume cannabis in homes where there are underaged individuals. Possession of more than 28 grams but fewer than 200 grams would be considered an infraction punishable by a fine but no jail time.

Sen. Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar, also of the MORENA party, said in April that legalizing cannabis could fill treasury coffers at a time when the economy is recovering from the pandemic.

As lawmakers work to advance the reform legislation, there’s been a more lighthearted push to focus attention on the issue by certain members and activists. That push has mostly involved planting and gifting marijuana.

In September, a top administration official was gifted a cannabis plant by senator on the Senate floor, and she said she’d be making it a part of her personal garden.

A different lawmaker gave the same official, Interior Ministry Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero, a marijuana joint on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies last year.

Cannabis made another appearance in the legislature in August, when Sen. Jesusa Rodríguez of the MORENA party decorated her desk with a marijuana plant.

Drug policy reform advocates have also been cultivating hundreds of marijuana plants in front of the Senate, putting pressure on legislators to make good on their pledge to advance legalization.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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