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Mexican Senate Committees Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill With Floor Vote Planned Soon

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Several Mexican Senate committees on Friday tentatively approved a revised bill to legalize marijuana during a joint hearing, with a formal in-person vote scheduled next week.

The legislation, which has circulated in draft form this month and further amended ahead of the meeting, would establish a regulated cannabis market in Mexico, allowing adults 18 and older to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and cultivate up to four plants for personal use.

Members of the Senate鈥檚 United Commissions of Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies advanced the bill, months after passing an earlier version. The panels first voted to dispense with that previous bill during Friday’s session.

A full Senate vote is expected soon after the committees’ in-person action on Wednesday, though advocates are still hoping for further revisions to promote consumers’ rights and social equity in the legal market.

The legislation as circulated earlier this week would have required individuals to obtain a government permit to cultivate marijuana for personal use, but the technical secretary of the Health Committee said on Friday that the provision was being eliminated.

Lawmakers have been working on the reform legislation for two years since the nation鈥檚 Supreme Court ruled in late 2018 that the prohibition on possessing and growing cannabis is unconstitutional. The court ordered Congress to amend the law accordingly, but the legislature has struggled to reach consensus on the issue and has been granted several deadline extensions to enact the policy change.

The current deadline to legalize marijuana is December 15.

Senate President Eduardo Ram铆rez said on Wednesday that there is a 鈥渃onsensus鈥 to achieve the reform by the court-mandated date.

Advocates have been consistently pushing for legislative action on reform since the court ruling, though they鈥檝e taken issue with certain provisions of lawmakers鈥 various proposals. Namely, they remain concerned about high penalties that can be imposed for violating the cannabis rules and feel the bill should further promote social equity in the industry.

Ricardo Monreal, the ruling MORENA party鈥檚 coordinator in the Senate, said on Friday the proposal is a significant improvement on current laws against possession, which have “only caused the detention centers to be full of people for possession of a few grams of cannabis, which is why they seek to reduce the penalties in carrying of this product.”

Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA and the coalition #RegulacionPorLaPaz, told Marijuana Moment that advocates are “hopeful” because the body seems “open to a few changes” they’re pushing for.

Separately, a cannabis advocacy association raised concerns about certain provisions that they consider excessively restrictive such as limitations on ourdoor cultivation.

The Movement for Legalization 4/2020 said that “if this project is approved without modifications, fundamental parts of this thriving industry will be excluded,” according to a translation.

The legislation does make 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 six plants. The legislation also says people 鈥渟hould not鈥 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.

Monreal originally said the chamber would vote on the legalization bill by the end of October, that timeline did not work out.

If the Senate passes the legal cannabis bill it will still have to go before the other house of the nation鈥檚 Congress, the Chamber of Deputies.

President Andr茅s Manuel L贸pez Obrador said in August that聽marijuana reform legislation will advance聽in the session that began in September.

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

As lawmakers work to advance the reform legislation, there鈥檚 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聽gifted a cannabis plant by senator聽on the Senate floor, and she said she鈥檇 be making it a part of her personal garden.

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

Cannabis made another appearance in the legislature in August, when Sen. Jesusa Rodr铆guez of the MORENA party聽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.

Read the text of the revised marijuana legalization bill discussed by Mexican Senate committees below:聽

Mexico Senate Marijuana Bill by Marijuana Moment

House Republicans Attack Democrats Over Planned Marijuana Legalization Vote

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Marijuana Banking Bill Will Get A House Floor Vote Next Week, Majority Leader Confirms

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A bipartisan bill to protect banks that service state-legal marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators has been formally scheduled to receive a House floor vote on Monday, a calendar released by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) office confirms.

Marijuana Moment reported on the expected development earlier Friday after obtaining an email that was sent to stakeholders by a staffer for Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the bill’s sponsor, seeking letters of support for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act ahead of the anticipated vote.

The bill is now now officially listed on the majority leader’s agenda of legislation for Monday.

This will mark the first floor action on a cannabis reform bill this Congress. The standalone legislation cleared the House with bipartisan support in 2019, and its language was also included in two coronavirus relief packages that the chamber approved. The proposal did not advance in any form in the Senate under GOP control, however.

With Democrats now in control of the House, Senate and White House, industry stakeholders are optimistic that the legislation stands a solid chance of becoming law this year.

The SAFE Banking Act was reintroduced in the House last month, and it currently has 151 cosponsors鈥攎ore than one-third of the chamber. Days later, it was refiled in the Senate, where Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) are the chief sponsors.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The legislation would ensure that financial institutions could take on cannabis business clients without facing federal penalties. Fear of sanctions has kept many banks and credit unions from working with the industry, forcing marijuana firms to operate on a cash basis that makes them targets of crime and creates complications for financial regulators.

Because the bill will be taken up under the process known as suspension of the rules, it will need a two-thirds supermajority to pass鈥攁n achievable threshold given the level of support it got during the earlier 2019 vote. No floor amendments will be allowed under the procedure.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said in a tweet on Friday that he鈥檒l “be voting for the SAFE Banking Act in the House” and that it’s “absurd that Marijuana business cannot fully access the US financial system.” He did not comment on the timing of a vote, however.

After it passed the House last Congress, advocates and stakeholders closely watched for any action to come out of the Senate Banking Committee, where it was referred after being transmitted to the chamber. But then-Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) did not hold a hearing on the proposal, despite talk of聽negotiations taking place regarding certain provisions.

Crapo said he opposed the reform proposal, but he signaled that he might be more amenable if it included certain provisions viewed as untenable to the industry, including a 2 percent THC potency limit on products in order for cannabis businesses to qualify to access financial services as well as blocking banking services for operators that sell high-potency vaping devices or edibles that could appeal to children.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who took the top seat in that panel after Democrats secured a majority in the Senate, told reporters in February that聽he鈥檚 鈥渨illing鈥 to move the cannabis banking bill, 鈥渂ut with it needs to come sentencing reform.鈥

The current Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act has 32 cosponsors.

When legislative leaders announced that the SAFE Banking Act was getting a House vote in 2019, 聽there was pushback from some advocates who felt that Congress聽should have prioritized comprehensive reform聽to legalize marijuana and promote social equity, rather than start with a measure viewed as primarily friendly to industry interests.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and an original cosponsor of the bill, said last month that the plan is to pass the banking reform first this session聽because it 鈥渋s a public safety crisis now,鈥 and it鈥檚 鈥渄istinct鈥攁s we鈥檝e heard from some of my colleagues鈥攄istinct from how they feel about comprehensive reform.鈥

Meanwhile, congressional lawmakers are simultaneously preparing to introduce legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are聽in the process of crafting a legalization bill, and they鈥檝e already met with advocates to get聽feedback on how best to approach the policy change.

Schumer said this week that the legislation will be introduced and placed on the floor “soon.”

On the House side, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said recently that he聽plans to reintroduced his legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which cleared the chamber last year but did not advance in the Senate under GOP control.

Biden’s Already On Board With Federal Marijuana Legalization Even If He Doesn’t Use That Word, Booker Says

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Washington Senate Replaces Drug Decriminalization Bill With Revised Measure To Reinstate Penalties

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A bill that would have formally decriminalized drugs in Washington State was gutted on the Senate floor on Thursday, with lawmakers approving a dramatically revised version that instead reinstates criminal penalties following a state Supreme Court ruling that overturned prohibition.

The action sets聽up a possible showdown with more progressive Democrats in the House of Representatives who have said they won鈥檛 vote for legislation that returns to a criminal war on drugs.

Washington has been without a law against drug possession since a divided state Supreme Court abruptly struck it down February, after ruling that a narrow portion of the decades-old law was unconstitutional. Lawmakers have since scrambled to address the decision鈥攚hich has halted drug arrests and prosecutions across the state and freed dozens of people incarcerated on drug possession charges鈥攂efore the legislative session ends on April 25.

On the Senate floor on Thursday evening, a bill that originally would have left drug possession decriminalized was amended to instead make possession a gross misdemeanor, a crime punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine鈥攁 change that led its lead sponsor to vote against the measure.

Prior to the court decision, drug possession was classified as a felony.

Senators passed the amended version of the bill, SB 5476, on a 28鈥20鈥1 vote. It next proceeds to the House, where it鈥檚 scheduled for an initial hearing in the Appropriations Committee on Monday, with possible committee action slated for Wednesday, April 21.

Watch the senators discuss the drug penalties legislation, around 1:01:33 into the video below:聽

As amended, the Senate-passed bill represents a moderate reform to Washington鈥檚 now-invalidated felony law against possession. It requires the prosecutors divert people for first- and second-time possession charges to evaluation and treatment programs, and allows for the possibility of further diversions with a prosecutor鈥檚 approval.

鈥淚 think that this striking amendment will help move us forward as we continue negotiations in these final 10 days with the body across the way toward having a response that will provide services and treatment and help for people who are struggling with substance use disorder,鈥 Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D), who brought the amendment, said on the Senate floor.

The bill in its original form represented a more significant shift away from the drug war. It would have imposed no penalties for possession of small, 鈥減ersonal use鈥 amounts of drugs, instead routing people to evaluation and treatment services for substance use disorder.

Some senators who initially supported SB 5476 ultimately changed their vote after the misdemeanor amendment was adopted. The bill鈥檚 original sponsor, Sen. Manka Dhingra (D) said she could no longer support the proposal.

鈥淭he way we are doing this, I’m glad there’ll be opportunities for diversion, but it needs to be not through the criminal justice system,鈥 Dhingra said during floor debate. 鈥淚 understand this is my bill, I understand my name is on there, but I will be voting no on this today.鈥

Many senators who weighed in on the bill Thursday said it was important that the legislature pass something before the session end, given the sweeping impact of February鈥檚 state Supreme Court decision, State v. Blake. In a statement issued after the floor vote, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D) said that not passing a state law on drug possession 鈥渕eans a patchwork of local ordinances that will be confusing to Washingtonians and won鈥檛 provide equal justice across the state.鈥

Generally speaking, state drug laws are understood to preempt those of Washington鈥檚 cities and counties. With the state law against possession gone, localities could establish their own laws and penalties, and some have already begun doing so.

鈥淭he bill we passed today is not the final word on the subject,鈥 Billig said in a statement. 鈥淚t is a compromise that keeps this important legislation moving so that we can do our duty as the representatives of the people of our whole state.鈥

Representatives in the House, however, have indicated more openness to leaving drug possession decriminalized this session. On Thursday, lawmakers in favor of broader drug reform introduced a new bill, HB 1578, which would expand treatment and recovery services and reclassify low-level possession as a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $125 and no possibility of jail time.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Of all the measures currently in play this session, the new bill is the one that most closely resembles neighboring Oregon鈥檚 drug decriminalization measure passed by voters in November. But its path forward is uncertain: HB 1578 would need to pass both chambers of the legislature in less than two weeks.

Likewise, it remains unclear how the House will receive the Senate-passed bill, SB 5476, in its new form. More progressive members of the Democratic caucus have said they won鈥檛 vote for legislation that reimposes criminal penalties for simple possession, but it鈥檚 not certain they鈥檒l be able to muster enough support to pass a decriminalization measure.

If House lawmakers were to amend the Senate bill before passing it, the legislation would need to go to a conference committee, where members of both chambers would iron out differences in the two versions of the bills.

Earlier this year, before the Supreme Court鈥檚 decision, a House committee passed a separate bill, HB 1499, that would have ended criminal penalties for personal use amounts of drugs and instead routed people to evaluation and treatment. It would have also significantly expanded the state鈥檚 outreach and recovery programs for people with drug use disorders. That measure failed to proceed further after missing a legislative deadline last month.

HB 1499, for its part, stemmed from an effort to put a drug decriminalization initiative on Washington鈥檚 ballot last year. Supporters pivoted to a push through the legislature after pressing pause on their signature-gathering campaign after COVID-19 first broke out in the Seattle area early last year.

Advocates for reform have noted that the state鈥檚 criminal enforcement of drug possession laws has had a strong bias against people of color, particularly the state鈥檚 Black, brown and Indigenous communities.

In her comments on the Senate floor, Dhingra echoed that point, arguing that the Blake decision presents a chance for lawmakers to finally begin to address those racial disparities.

鈥淚 will say that the Supreme Court did provide us with an opportunity,鈥 she said, 鈥渁n opportunity to really think about what we as a state and as a nation have been doing in regards to the war on drugs, and to really think critically of the impact that this has had very, very specifically on Brown and Black families.鈥

鈥淭he racial impact of our drug laws cannot be understated,鈥 Dhingra continued. 鈥淲hen we take a look at mass incarceration, when we take a look at families with a single mom who is bringing up her children, when we take a look at parents who cannot find a job because of their criminal history, cannot find housing, cannot seek recovery, it comes down to the manner in which we have been enforcing our drug laws.鈥

Rep. Roger Goodman (D), the lead sponsor of the new House measure, HB 1578, which would make possession a civil infraction, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday evening. In an interview with Marijuana Moment last month, however, he called the Blake decision “both a blessing and a curse.”

鈥淚t鈥檚 an opportunity for us to come up with a more effective approach that does less harm,” he said, “but we don鈥檛 have the opportunity to be deliberate and inclusive in conversations with interested parties, so it鈥檚 not as well thought-out a proposal as it would be otherwise. It has to be an interim measure.鈥

Just five years ago, few state legislatures would have dreamed of letting drugs remain decriminalized after a court decision like Blake. Now attitudes are beginning to shift.

鈥淭here鈥檚 this phenomenon called discontinuous change,鈥 Goodman told Marijuana Moment, 鈥渨here nothing happens and nothing happens and nothing happens, and then the Berlin Wall falls down. We鈥檙e getting to that place in drug policy where it鈥檚 a tipping point.鈥

Oregon voters ended prohibition of low-level drug possession at the ballot during last November鈥檚 election, which has contributed to the national conversation.

In both Maine and Vermont, lawmakers have also recently unveiled legislation last month to decriminalize small amounts of illegal drugs. Last month, a Rhode Island Senate committee held a hearing on legislation that would end criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of drugs and replace them with a $100 fine.

In New Jersey, meanwhile, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said last month that he鈥檚 鈥渙pen-minded鈥 on decriminalizing all drugs.

California Bill To Legalize Possession Of Psychedelics Clears Second Senate Committee

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Biden’s Already On Board With Federal Marijuana Legalization Even If He Doesn’t Use That Word, Booker Says

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Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) says that President Joe Biden is already where he needs to be to get a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition enacted into law鈥攅ven if he personally opposes legalization. Confusion about the president’s position comes down to semantics, the senator indicated.

Booker said in a recent interview that Biden’s stance in favor of “decriminalization” will be enough to advance the reform legislation he’s working on with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR).

That reason being, he said, is that what the reform proposal would accomplish at the federal level is effectively decriminalizing marijuana by removing it from the list of controlled substances and letting states set their own policies鈥something Biden does supports.

“I have a great partner” in the president, Booker said in an interview on the podcast Hell & High Water that was published on Wednesday. “He believes in decriminalization鈥攁nd as I said to him the first time we talked about it was, ‘well, my bill is no different. I think states should be allowed to do what they want.'”

“I think it should be legalized, but what we need to do at the federal level is de-list marijuana. And as soon as you decriminalize marijuana, you open up states that right now are not able to do a lot of things, to give way for what I want to achieve,” Booker said. “His policy position on marijuana鈥攈e may say, ‘I’m not for legalization, I’m for decriminalization’鈥攁s a federal official, that’s where I’m trying to get.”

In other words, the senator isn’t especially concerned that Biden would be an obstacle if Congress passes the legalization bill he’s planning to introduce, as long as it’s made clear that there’s no mandate for all states to set up tax-and-regulate marijuana markets if they don’t want to.

Booker also said he would like for people to stop playing a video clip of him calling out Biden’s opposition to legalization during a presidential primary debate in 2019, as the interview host did in the new podcast interview. At the time, the senator jokingly accused his fellow candidate of being “high” when he articulated his opposition to legalization days earlier.

“That is a little clip I’m hoping at some point stops being played,” he said. “But yes, indeed, I accused Joe Biden of being high.”

While the text of the pending legalization legislation has yet to be introduced, it’s expected to incorporate key provisions from past reform bills such as Booker’s own Marijuana Justice Act (MJA) that could create incentives for states to adopt legalization. For example, the MJA called for the withholding of certain federal funds to states where cannabis criminalization is enforced out in a racially disproportionate way.

That would go a bridge further than simple decriminalization, so it remains to be seen if Biden would be amendable to that kind of broader reform.

In any case, Booker’s point about the decriminalization/legalization distinction when it comes to federal policy was also made by Schumer in a recent press conference. The majority leader, who’s said that Congress will move forward with legalization regardless of the president’s position, said last month that 鈥淚 support decriminalization at the federal level, and we鈥檒l be introducing legislation with a few of my colleagues shortly.鈥

Asked to clarify whether he supports legalization, Schumer replied, 鈥渄ecriminalization, legalization,鈥 implying that the two terms are used interchangeably.

鈥淎t the federal level, you call it 鈥榙ecriminalization鈥 because that lets the states legalize,鈥 he said. But in general, advocates draw a distinction between the terms, with decriminalization usually being used to describe state or local policies that simply remove the threat of incarceration for simple possession while fines or other penalties could still be levied, which is distinct from outright legalization.

Schumer also said this week that the legalization bill they’re working on will be brought to the floor of his chamber 鈥渟oon.鈥

He, Wyden and Booker formally started their reform efforts by holding a meeting earlier this year with representatives from a variety of advocacy groups to聽gain feedback on the best approach to the reform.

Schumer made a point last month to say that it will specifically seek to restrict the ability of large alcohol and tobacco companies to overtake the industry.

Instead,聽it will prioritize small businesses, particularly those owned by people from communities most impacted by prohibition, and focus on 鈥渏ustice, justice, justice鈥攁s well as freedom,鈥 he said.

He also urged voters to reach out to their congressional representatives and tell them that 鈥渢his is long overdue.鈥

On the House side, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said recently that he聽plans to reintroduced his legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which cleared the chamber last year but did not advance in the Senate under GOP control.

Now that Democrats have the majority in both chambers, as well as the White House, there鈥檚 a sense of optimism among advocates that comprehensive reform is achievable in this Congress.

But with respect to the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last month that Biden鈥檚 position on adult-use legalization 鈥渉as not changed,鈥 meaning he still opposes the policy.

69 Percent Of Americans Now Support Legalizing Marijuana鈥擜n All-Time High, Quinnipiac Poll Finds

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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