The Mexican Senate will likely vote on a bill to legalize marijuana within the next two weeks, the chamber’s majority leader recently said.
Activists have been eagerly awaiting action on the reform legislation since the Supreme Court deemed personal possession and cultivation of cannabis unconstitutional in 2018—though some are pushing for a greater emphasis on social equity before lawmakers pass the pending bill in its current form.
The high court in April granted a second deadline extension to give legislators additional time to enact the policy change amid the coronavirus pandemic, pushing it to December 15. That said, Ricardo Monreal, the ruling MORENA party’s leader in the Senate, said the chamber will advance the bill before the end of October.
It’s not clear if the legislation will go through the committee process or straight to the floor given that tight timeline. Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA and the coalition #RegulacionPorLaPaz, told Marijuana Moment that advocates have similarly heard from senators that the plan is to quickly pass the proposal and they’re “hopeful” that’s the case.
If the Senate passes the legal cannabis bill it will still have to go before the other house of the nation’s Congress, the Chamber of Deputies.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in August that marijuana reform legislation will advance in the new session. The bill was approved by several committees earlier this year, but the COVID-19 outbreak derailed negotiations.
The civil rights group México Unido outlined its concerns about the current proposal in a Twitter thread on Tuesday, contending that as drafted it would allow select companies to monopolize the industry.
El dictamen para regular #cannabis que hasta el momento ha sido aprobado en el @senadomexicano posibilita la concentración del mercado en pocos actores, dejando los beneficios para unas cuantas empresas. pic.twitter.com/nzEJstNgAQ
— México Unido (@MUCD) October 13, 2020
They said that amending the measure should be “a matter of distributing the benefits of the market among those who have been most affected” by cannabis criminalization, according to a translation.
Para tener #cannabislegalconjusticiasocial hay que evitar la formación de oligopolios y sobrecomercializar el mercado: se trata de distribuir los beneficios del mercado entre quienes más han sido afectados.
— México Unido (@MUCD) October 13, 2020
The legalization bill that’s set to advance this coming session 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.
Legal 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 2019 deadline.
Sen. Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar, also of the 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.
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.
Last month, 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.