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Mexican President Says Marijuana Legalization Will Advance Through Congress As Session Approaches

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The president of Mexico says that marijuana legalization will advance through Congress when it reconvenes next month—and he won’t stand in the way.

During a press conference on Wednesday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was asked about a recent meeting with a key senator who is championing the cannabis reform legislation and whether he’s supportive of the proposal.

He emphasized that “it must be taken into account that we are respectful of the division and balance between powers” when it comes to the executive and legislative branches of government, according to a translation, adding that the marijuana proposal has “been around for a long time.”

The president also acknowledged that the legislature is acting in accordance with a Supreme Court mandate to lift the federal prohibition on marijuana after it determined that the ban on personal use and possession is unconstitutional in 2018.

While a legalization bill advanced through several committees earlier this year, the reform effort has been stalled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The court has been pushing back the deadline for lawmakers to enact the policy change, and as it stands, they currently have until December 15.

“Yes, they are going to decide freely, listening to the opinion of all the parties,” López Obrador said of legislators. “There have already been consultations, and if they are going to decide on this matter, that is, there is going to be a legal reform.”

Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA and the coalition #RegulacionPorLaPaz, told Marijuana Moment that the president’s recognition of the separation of powers is a “positive” development, especially considering that the Senate is set to go back into session soon, starting on September 1. The reform legislation will be on the agenda.

The bill was revised during a joint meeting of the Justice, Health, Legislative Studies and Public Safety Committees in March.

The proposal would allow adults 18 and older to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. Individuals could grow up to 20 registered plants as long as the total yield doesn’t exceed 480 grams per year. Medical patients could apply to cultivate more than 20 plants, however.

Personal possession would be capped at 28 grams, but possession of up to 200 grams would be decriminalized.

The Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis, a decentralized body established under the measure, would be established and responsible for regulating the market and issuing licenses for marijuana businesses.

The bill proposes a 12 percent tax on cannabis sales, with some revenue going toward a substance misuse treatment fund.

Public consumption would be permissible, except in spaces designated as 100 percent smoke-free. Hemp and CBD would be exempt from regulations that apply to THC products.

An earlier version of the legislation was approved by Senate committees last year ahead of the court’s previous October deadline.

Sen. Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar of the ruling Morena party said in April that while legislators must still resolve certain disagreements about the legislation, legalizing cannabis could fill treasury coffers at a time when the economy is recovering from the pandemic.

While advocates are eager to enact reform, they’ve also raised several concerns with the legislation as drafted, particularly as it relates to restorative justice.

They would like to enhance social equity provisions, provide protections for cannabis consumers and ensure the market empowers domestic farmers, especially those most impacted by the drug war.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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