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Mexican Senate Committees Meeting This Week To Finalize Marijuana Legalization Plan

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Marijuana legalization is “on track” in Mexico, a top senator said on Monday, announcing that several committees are convening to tackle the issue this week.

Sen. Ricardo Monreal of the ruling MORENA party said that four panels have started the process of reviewing comprehensive legislation that deals with medical, recreational and industrial cannabis reform. The committees are set to meet to go over the draft bill on Wednesday.

“There is no limit on the content,” he said, referring to the scope of the legislation, according to a translation. “I think it is worth taking advantage of the political moment to be able to legislate broadly on this cannabis issue.”

Monreal said he has “confidence” that the Justice, Health, Legislative Studies and Public Safety Committees will reach a consensus on the bill.

He also told reporters that he’s spoken to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and that he “expressed his respect” for the legislative process and has “no problem with the Senate carrying out a comprehensive legislative exercise” on cannabis issues.

While Sen. Julio Menchaca, chairman of the Justice Committee, predicted earlier this month that the full Senate would vote on the legalization proposal by the end of February, it does not appear that the chamber will meet that tight deadline. Monreal previously said that lawmakers are positioned to advance it prior to an April deadline imposed by the nation’s Supreme Court, however.

The court, which ruled in 2018 that the country’s ban on marijuana possession and cultivation for personal use was unconstitutional, initially gave Congress a deadline of October 2019 to enact reform. Legislators came close to voting on a committee-approved bill last year, but they ultimately requested a deadline extension that the court granted.

While the court only mandated that legislators remove the prohibition on personal possession and cultivation from the lawbooks, leading officials have expressed a desire add a legal sales component as well.

“I would like broad, unbounded legislation because if we were strict, it would be enough for us to reform the three articles that the Court has declared unconstitutional,” Monreal said. “But I want to go further.”

The senator wants lawmakers to tackle “all items, recreational, medicinal, recreational, sale, cultivation, commercialization, industrialization, everything,” he said.

The legislation as currently drafted would allow adults to possess up to 28 grams of cannabis for personal use and cultivate up to four plants. Individuals could apply for a license to possess more than 28 grams but no more than 200 grams.

A regulatory body called the Mexican Cannabis Institute would be responsible for issuing business licenses and developing rules for the market. The bill also contains provisions to promote social equity, such as prioritizing cultivation licenses for individuals from communities most impacted by the drug war.

That said, reform advocates are hoping to see a greater emphasis on social equity and are imploring senators to make a series of changes before it goes to a vote.

Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA and the coalition #RegulacionPorLaPaz, told Marijuana Moment that the number of plants allowed to be cultivated for personal use should be increased, possession-related penalties should be lifted, farmers should be able to access seeds already in Mexico rather than import them and the percentage of cultivation licenses issued to communities most impacted by the drug war should be increased from 40 to 80 percent.

“As civil society, we celebrate that they’re moving ahead with this agenda and that this continues to be a priority of the Senate and of the government,” Snapp said. “However, we see that there are still many problems around guaranteeing the rights of people who consume cannabis and also guaranteeing the rights of communities that cultivate cannabis currently so that they can participate in a commercial market.”

“This is about ensuring and guaranteeing rights that have already been recognized by the Supreme Court as well as ensuring access and creating a market that will really privilege Mexico and cultivating communities,” she said. “Those are our goals.”

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