A top Mexican lawmaker says the nation’s Senate will vote on a bill to legalize marijuana by the end of this month.
Sen. Julio Menchaca of the ruling MORENA party, who serves as president of the Justice Committee, said this week that legislation to legalize cannabis has “already circulated to the members” of key panels following “many exercises of open parliament.”
The Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that Mexico’s ban on the personal use and possession of marijuana is unconstitutional and it initially set a deadline of October 2019 to amend the policy. But while lawmakers came close to voting on a bill late last year that was approved by a series of committees, they requested a deadline extension at the last minute, and the court approved it.
Congress now has until the end of April to legalize cannabis, but Menchaca said “we hope to take it out in the Senate this month.”
“Prohibition has generated a lot of violence in the last 100 years,” he said, including fostering “the creation of an organized crime.”
The senator is referring to a newly revised version of the legislation that 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.
The Mexican Cannabis Institute, a new regulatory body, would be responsible for issuing business licenses and developing rules for the market. The legislation also contains provisions to promote social equity, such as prioritizing cultivation licenses for individuals from communities most impacted by the drug war.
Sen. Ricardo Monreal Ávila of the MORENA party said last month that while the revised bill is a step in the right direction, there are still issues that needs to be addressed because there are lawmakers “who are not in favor even of the legislation in this matter, so all that we have to pick it up and translate it into the will expressed on the opinion.”
He didn’t indicate that a vote would happen imminently, simply stating that the Senate is positioned to advance it ahead of the April deadline.
Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA and the coalition #RegulacionPorLaPaz, told Marijuana Moment that Menchaca’s prediction that the chamber will pass the bill by the end of February is not feasible if lawmakers intend to make changes to enhance social equity provisions, as requested by reform advocates and administration officials.
“There was pushback on that [the earlier version], and there will be pushback on this project because it doesn’t have, at the center, social justice, which is what the current government federal administration would like to ensure exists in a comprehensive regulation bill,” she said. “We as civil society have sent our comments to the Justice Committee and the Health Committee on what we think needs to be changed in this project before it begins to be discussed by the committees.”
Additionally, legislative leaders have “not convened any meetings as of yet of the committees, and they need to do that before they can really start saying when this bill is going to be improved,” she said.
“We believe that there are changes that need to be made, both in the rights of people who use cannabis and then also changes that need to be made in order to ensure that cultivating communities can transition into this legal market,” Snapp said. “We don’t believe that that’s going to happen by the end of the month, but rather that they need to take the time to really integrate those inputs and improve this project before they take it to the committees.”
If and when the legalization bill passes the Senate, it would then have to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies.