The Mexican Supreme Court granted a request to again extend the deadline for the nation’s Congress to legalize marijuana on Friday.
Ever since the court declared in 2018 that the prohibition on personal possession and cultivation of cannabis is unconstitutional, lawmakers have been working to enact a policy change, accordingly. But while bills have been introduced to accomplish that, negotiations have taken longer than expected.
An initial deadline for legalization was set for October 2019, but Senate leaders requested an extension amid disagreements about legislation that was heading toward a vote. The court approved that request and said Congress had until the end of this month to reform the country’s marijuana policy.
But as the coronavirus pandemic forced lawmakers to put most legislative activities on hold, another extension was requested.
The new deadline for lawmakers to end prohibition is December 15—the end of the next legislative session. Politco.mx first reported the development.
Agradezco a la @SCJN y a su presidente @ArturoZaldivarL por el acuerdo de ampliación de plazo, para que el @senadomexicano pueda dictaminar la legislación relativa a la regulación de la cannabis. pic.twitter.com/Aq3YWMiX5q
— Mónica Fernández Balboa (@monicaferbal) April 17, 2020
Sen. Mónica Fernández, president of the Senate’s Board of Directors, thanked the court for approving the extension.
Although lawmakers conceded they would not be able to meet this month’s deadline, substantial progress has been made nonetheless on the cannabis legislation.
During a joint meeting of the Justice, Health, Legislative Studies and Public Safety Committees last month, members approved a revised marijuana reform bill that had been circulated.
The proposal as introduced 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 October deadline.
Advocates have expressed frustration over the more recently revised version, noting that it hadn’t been changed to address their concerns.
They would like to enhance social equity provisions, provide protections for cannabis consumers and ensure that market empowers domestic farmers, especially those most impacted under the drug war—and they hope that lawmakers will the new deadline extension to carefully consider their concerns and work them into an amended version of the legislation.
“We hope that this will give them the time to take up this issue again in the fall and that they will be able to integrate the changes that we have recommended, including taking away the very high and expensive sanctions for certain activities such as smoking in public,” Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA and the coalition #RegulacionPorLaPaz, told Marijuana Moment. “We also hope that this will provide them with the opportunity to integrate social justice into every aspect of the bill.”
“We believe that this bill is urgent for Mexico, particularly once we get past the pandemic and are ale to restart the economy. Regulating cannabis will be a key measure that could be used to generate formal jobs and provide a more just wage for people who are involved in this entire production chain,” she said.
This story was updated to include comment from Snapp.