The Washington State attorney general’s office appeared alongside lawyers representing cancer patients on Thursday, telling a federal appeals panel that people in end-of-life care deserve legal access to psilocybin—the main psychoactive compound in psychedelic mushrooms—under state and federal right-to-try laws.
“It is entirely consistent with the purpose and language of the state and federal right-to-try laws to include any controlled substances that have completed Phase 1 trials, including Schedule I controlled substances,” Washington Deputy Solicitor General Peter B. Gonick said in oral argument before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, referring to a category of illegal drugs that includes psilocybin. “It’s entirely inconsistent with the right-to-try laws to prevent patient access to these treatments.”
Congress and 41 U.S. states have adopted right-to-try (RTT) laws, which allow patients with terminal conditions to try investigational medications that have not been approved for general use. But in the case before the Ninth Circuit, two patients and a Seattle-based palliative care clinic, the Advanced Integrated Medical Science (AIMS) Institute, say the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is standing in their way.
The group sued DEA in March, after the agency replied to a request for guidance from the clinic’s co-director, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal. DEA asserted that the only way for the AIMS Institute to dispense psilocybin legally would be to obtain a federal research permit, which “would not be applicable to Dr. Aggarwal at this time.”
Out of the gate at oral argument Thursday, judges initially expressed skepticism over whether they even had jurisdiction to hear the case at this point. DEA maintains its letter to the clinic was simply an informal opinion, not a reviewable decision.
“Isn’t that the beginning and the and of this case?” Judge Ryan D. Nelson, an appointee of President Donald Trump, interjected barely 10 seconds after arguments began. “They wrote, seeking instructions on how to proceed… So if they sought instructions, how can a response for instructions ever be a final order?”
Attorney Matthew Zorn, who represented the patients and clinic suing DEA at Thursday’s oral arguments, replied that the agency’s response effectively gave them no options. “That response was: There is no process,” Zorn said. “If they had identified a process, we would have used that process. Because the agency said, ‘There is nothing for you to use,’ there is nowhere for us to go.”
For several minutes, judges on the panel—which also included Trump appointee Judge Mark J. Bennett and Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta, appointed by President George W. Bush—peppered Zorn with questions about whether DEA’s reply was even reviewable under court precedent.
“You didn’t ask [DEA] for an interpretive rule,” Nelson said.
“You asked for guidance,” agreed Ikuta.
“We didn’t ask for it,” Zorn told Nelson, “but that’s what we got.”
“I agree if that’s what you got the case might be different,” Nelson answered with an audible chuckle.
Though Zorn’s allotted time ended with some questions from judges unanswered, the panel’s mood appeared to change as the attorney dissected a federal court decision out of the Eastern District of Tennessee, which Nelson raised as a challenge. Zorn explained how he thought that decision was made in error, running contrary to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling dealing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“This is crystal clear. I do think that court erred,” Zorn argued, as Nelson nodded his head.
Speaking after Zorn, Gonick, the Washington State deputy solicitor general, offered arguments on behalf of that state. Lawmakers there, where the AIMS Institute is located, passed a state right-to-try law unanimously in 2017, allowing terminally ill patients access to treatments that have passed Phase 1 of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s approval process.
“The average time, Phase 1 to FDA approval, is seven to 10 years,” Gonick told judges, “and Congress and 41 states determined that was just too long for some patients suffering life-threatening illnesses.”
The laws express the recognition that some patients “may not have time to wait for FDA approval to receive treatments,” he added, “treatments that currently have ‘no accepted medical use,’ as the drugs in Schedule I have been designated” under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The DEA attorney, Department of Justice (DOJ) appellate lawyer Thomas Pulham, argued the case itself should be dismissed because the court lacks jurisdiction. If the agency had explicitly rejected the clinic’s application for a research permit, he said, only then could that decision be appealed.
“DEA’s action is not subject to judicial review, because it neither reflects the consummation of a decision-making process nor results in any legal consequences,” Pulham said. “It was an informal response to a request for assistance from a member of a regulated community that did nothing more than provide the agency’s view on existing law.”
The agency also argued to the court in a June filing that loosening restrictions on psilocybin could fuel the illegal drug trade.
Judges were skeptical of the government’s stance, however, and repeatedly asked Pulham how the clinic and its patients should have proceeded, in DEA’s view.
“What about under the Right to Try law, though?” asked Judge Ikuta. “Is there a pathway where they could apply under the Right to Try Act?”
No, the lawyer for DEA replied. “As the agency indicated in its letter, there’s no procedure available under the Right to Try Act, because the Right to Try Act does not provide the agency any authority to waive the requirements of the Controlled Substances Act.”
Pulham argued that if the AIMS Institute and its patients were to proceed with psilocybin therapy and face enforcement action by the DEA, they could raise their right-to-try arguments at that point.
“Usually we don’t require a party to go and subject themselves to liability in order to appeal,” interrupted Judge Nelson. “It sounds like there might actually be some legal consequences here. I mean, it is prohibiting them from doing what they want to do, and it’s subjecting them to enforcement action if they were to go forward.”
“The letter does not do that,” Pulham stressed. “The Controlled Substances Act does that.”
“When Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, it designated psilocybin as a controlled, Schedule I controlled substance based on findings that the drug had a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use,” he continued. “That determination made psilocybin, in the Supreme Court’s words, contraband for all purposes, except for one exception, which is research.”
In his few remaining minutes of argument for rebuttal, Zorn emphasized that his clients are merely asking DEA to explain how clinicians and patients should move forward under right-to-try laws. “The agency has said it has no authority to give us what we’re asking for, which is a process to apply for a waiver and exemption to vindicate right-to-try use,” he said, “which is very different from research use.” He also noted that DEA has accommodated some ceremonial use of controlled substances under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which is also not explicitly exempt from the CSA.
Zorn’s colleagues and clients cheered Zorn’s performance and said they hope it helps persuade the three-judge panel to rule in their favor.
“I am so grateful for such a landmark day in a higher court for us, in which our legal team was able to help in the slow chipping away of the DEA–CSA industrial complex status quo that stymies public health, healthcare, religious freedom, and the needs of the seriously ill,” Aggarwal, co-director of the AIMS Institute, told Marijuana Moment. “Now we await a swift and just ruling.”
Attorney Kathryn Tucker, who also represents AIMS and the patients, said that the panel “appeared over the course of the argument to appreciate that the agency had left no avenue open and hence the matter was properly before the court.”
“The sense I had watching the arguments was that the judges wanted to know how DEA would accommodate RTT and enable access for therapeutic use,” she said. “DOJ had no good answer to that.”
As AIMS and its patients challenge DEA’s restrictions on therapeutic psilocybin for end-of-life care, jurisdictions across the country are increasingly removing or reducing penalties around drug possession and consumption, especially when it comes to psychedelics.
A task force in Seattle, where AIMS is located, recently called on the City Council, as well as state lawmakers and other municipalities, to decriminalize all drugs as a way to curb overdose deaths. The group’s report also notes the potential shown by psychedelics in particular for treating various mental health disorders.
At the state level, Washington lawmakers reduced the state’s felony charge for drug possession to a misdemeanor earlier this year and earmarked more money for treatment following a state Supreme Court decision that overturned the states felony law against drug possession completely.
In California, meanwhile, a Senate-passed bill to legalize possession of a wide range of psychedelics advanced through several Assembly committees this session, but it will not move further this year following a decision by the sponsor that more time is needed to build the case for the reform and solidify its chances of being enacted.
California psychedelics activists also recently filed a petition for the 2022 ballot to make the state the first in the nation to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for any use. Oakland and Santa Cruz have already enacted psychedelics decriminalization. The state’s nonpartisan Legislation Analyst’s Office said this week that the statewide ballot measure could save the state tens of millions of dollars in annual enforcement costs.
In Michigan, the Ann ArborCity Council approved the policy change last year—and local lawmakers recently passed a resolution to officially designate September as Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month.
In Denver the first city to adopt psilocybin reform, activists are now pushing to expand the psilocybin decriminalization policy to cover gifting and communal use of the substance.
The governor of Connecticut recently signed legislation recently that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms, meanwhile, and Texas recently enacted a bill to require the state study the medical benefits of psychedelics for military veterans.
A New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to similarly research the medical value of psychedelics.
In Oakland, the first city where a city council voted to broadly deprioritize criminalization of entheogenic substances, lawmakers approved a follow-up resolution in December that calls for the policy change to be adopted statewide and for local jurisdictions to be allowed to permit healing ceremonies where people could use psychedelics.
After Ann Arbor legislators passed a decriminalization resolution last year, a county prosecutor recently announced that his office will not be pursuing charges over possessing entheogenic plants and fungi—“regardless of the amount at issue.”
The Aspen, Colorado City Council discussed the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and proposals to decriminalize such substances at a meeting in May. But members said, as it stands, enacting a reform would be more better handled at the state level while entheogens remain strictly federally controlled.
Activists in Portland, Oregon, meanwhile, are mounting a push to have local lawmakers pass a resolution decriminalizing the cultivation, gifting and ceremonial use of a wide range of psychedelics.
In a setback for advocates, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against a proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would have removed a spending bill rider that advocates say has restricted federal funds for research into Schedule I drugs, including psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA and ibogaine. However, it picked up considerably more votes this round than when the congresswoman first introduced it in 2019.
Report provisions of separate, House-passed spending legislation also touch on the need to expand cannabis and psychedelics research. The panel urged the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) to support expanded marijuana studies, for example
It further says that federal health agencies should pursue research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for military veterans suffering from a host of mental health conditions.
When it comes to broader drug policy reform, Oregon voters also approved an initiative in November to decriminalize possession of all drugs. This year, the Maine House of Representatives passed a drug decriminalization bill, but it later died in the Senate.
In May, lawmakers in Congress filed the first-ever legislation to federally decriminalize possession of illicit substances.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mushroom Observer
Maryland Lawmakers Must Override Governor’s Drug Paraphernalia Decriminalization Veto (Op-Ed)
“Criminalization, marginalization, isolation, injury and death are all part of a largely preventable cycle of harm.”
By Scott Cecil, Maryland Matters
The writer is a regional ambassador of the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition.
At the urging of public health professionals and harm reduction advocates during the 2021 session, the Maryland legislature approved Senate Bill 420 decriminalizing the possession of drug paraphernalia. Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) decision to veto that bill flies in the face of the expertise of those same public health professionals and harm reduction advocates.
His action constitutes a failure to meaningfully respond to the calls to abolish hyper-criminalization in policing, reimagine public safety in our society and address the crisis of accidental fatal drug overdoses in Maryland.
Because of the veto, in Maryland, the tools which may be used to consume drugs will continue to be illegal to possess and use. This makes them scarcer and encourages people to share them with others, putting them at an elevated risk of contracting bloodborne illnesses and disease such as hepatitis and HIV.
Criminalization of paraphernalia is dangerous for all Marylanders, including those who do not use illicit substances, because it increases the likelihood that the public at large and law enforcement personnel can be directly harmed. Under continued paraphernalia criminalization, people who use drugs will continue to be reluctant to hold onto their supplies due to the fear that the police will use possession of these items as a means to search and arrest them.
With the threat of having to interact with law enforcement personnel, drug users are more likely to dispose of paraphernalia in public spaces. Paraphernalia criminalization laws also put law enforcement personnel at greater risk because they are more likely to be endangered by hidden supplies when interacting with or conducting a search of someone’s body or belongings.
Prohibitive drug paraphernalia laws are ostensibly intended to discourage both drug use and the availability of paraphernalia. Decades of the so-called War on Drugs has shown us that aggressive enforcement and criminalization of drug use have not reduced the rate of drug use in our society nor the availability of drug paraphernalia.
Meanwhile, the rates of infectious diseases and accidental fatal overdose deaths among drug users have surged. Last year, more than 93,000 Americans (including approximately 2,800 people in Maryland) died of accidental fatal drug overdoses.
Decriminalization or paraphernalia is rooted in the harm reduction principle of equipping people to use drugs more safely.
This is positive for everyone in the community—including law enforcement agents, by stemming the spread of infectious disease and lifting the stigma which so dangerously isolates people who use drugs.
By contrast, criminalization, and perceived suspicion of criminal activity—like illicit drug use—is far too often used as a means for law enforcement personnel to target historically marginalized groups, such as people living with mental illnesses and people who are surviving without access to housing. These folks are more likely to be suffering from substance use disorders, thereby placing them at extremely elevated risk of injury or death from drug use.
Criminalization, marginalization, isolation, injury and death are all part of a largely preventable cycle of harm. And criminalization is perhaps the only part of that cycle which can be meaningfully and quickly addressed by public policy and law.
The Maryland legislature understood this when they passed SB420 into law earlier this year. It is unfortunate that Gov. Hogan has failed to acknowledge this reality.
His statement on the veto demonstrates that he either lacks a sufficient understanding of the expertise of public health professionals and harm reduction advocates, or that his decision making on this issue has been clouded by outdated, misleading or simply false drug-warrior misinformation.
It is now up to the Maryland legislature to override his veto.
Maryland must be led down a path which has the greatest chances of success for reducing the risks associated with drug use for all Marylanders (including those who do not use illicit drugs) and stemming the tide of accidental fatal overdoses in Maryland which have reached catastrophic proportions.
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Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor Wants To Process As Many Marijuana Pardons As Possible Before Leaving Office
The lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania is stepping up his push to get marijuana records cleared, promoting an expedited petition program that he hopes will provide relief to thousands of people negatively impacted by prohibition.
In an interview with KDKA that aired last week, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) said one of his key goals in his final year in office is to ensure that as many eligible people as possible submit applications to have the courts remove their cannabis records and restore opportunities to things like housing, student financial aid and employment.
When the Pennsylvania BOP convenes next week, we’ll approve many more.
Serving up a 2nd Chance in PA- for FREE.
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) November 26, 2021
“I’m a fervent believer in second chances. And one of the things I quickly discovered was that people’s lives were just being ruined by these silly charges, and you have all this unnecessary review [to seal records],” Fetterman, who chairs the state Board of Pardons, said.
“This is a plant that’s legal in many jurisdictions across America, and it’s not a big deal, but you go through your life in many cases a convicted felon, and that excludes you from a lot of opportunities,” he said. “So I developed an expedited review process that I encourage everybody to partake in.”
There are about 20,000 marijuana-related cases in Pennsylvania each year, he said. And some eligible cases go back decades, including one case that recently went through the petition process where a man had a felony conviction on his record for possession of eight ounces of cannabis that dates back to 1975.
“If you’ve got some stupid charge like that on your record, it doesn’t cost anything to apply, and we can get that off your your permanent record,” the lieutenant governor said. “I don’t care how conservative or how liberal you are politically. I don’t think we as a society should be really damaging people’s future for consuming a plant that is now legal in many jurisdictions—and soon will be in Pennsylvania.”
As the chair of Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons, I’ve been pushing + delivering expedited pardons for weed convictions.
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) November 22, 2021
While both Fetterman and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) support mass expungements of cannabis convictions, he said that, right now, this is “the only way to free records.”
But the official is optimistic about the prospect of future reform to both legalize marijuana in the state and provide an even more effective process to get past convictions sealed. He pointed to a legalization bill that was recently filed by a Republican lawmaker as an example of the “evolution towards this” and described the legislation’s introduction as “a quantum leap in acknowledging it.”
For now, however, he’s doing what he can to raise awareness about the expedited petition program under the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. People with non-violent marijuana convictions can apply for free on the board’s website.
“I’m lieutenant governor for a little over a year, and we want to get as many people free of these silly convictions and charges that are holding the record back,” Fetterman said. “The application doesn’t cost anything. You don’t need an attorney. And our turnaround time is, right now, down to three to four months.”
Thank you for having me on.
Get that stupid weed charge off your record for FREE.
⏱ Process only takes months
🔜 Get your application in ASAP https://t.co/m2pYjZtANm
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) November 17, 2021
In May, Wolf pardoned a doctor who was arrested, prosecuted and jailed for growing marijuana that he used to provide relief for his dying wife. That marked his 96th pardon for people with cannabis convictions through the Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Related Offenses.
Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, a lawmaker introduced a bill last month to expand the number of medical marijuana cultivators in the state, prioritizing small farms to break up what she characterized as a monopoly or large corporations that’s created supply problems.
Separately, bipartisan Pennsylvania senators said this month that they are introducing a bill to allow medical marijuana patients to cultivate their own plants for personal use.
A much-anticipated bipartisan Senate bill to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania that has been months in the making was formally introduced last month.
Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) unveiled the nearly 240-page legislation months after first outlining some key details back in February. It would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, five grams of marijuana concentrate products and 500 milligrams of THC contained in cannabis-infused products.
Meanwhile, Rep. Amen Brown (D) recently announced his intent to file a reform bill that he’ll be working on with Sen. Mike Regan (R), who expressed his support for the policy change a day earlier.
Additionally, a separate pair of state lawmakers—Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D)—formally unveiled a legalization bill they’re proposing.
While each measure generally seeks and end to marijuana criminalization by creating a regulated, commercial model for cannabis, there are some provisions that make each piece of legislation unique. For example, the proposals vary in how they would approach taxes, revenue and social equity.
While these recent moves to enact reform in the GOP-controlled legislature are encouraging to advocates, a spokesperson for House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R) recently tempered expectations, saying that there’s “no significant support for the legalization of recreational marijuana in the House Republican caucus.”
Fetterman, who is running for U.S. Senate, told Marijuana Moment in a recent phone interview that he’s optimistic about the prospects of reform with these latest proposals, though he acknowledged that there may be disputes between legislators over how tax revenue should be distributed.
Wolf, for his part, has said that a bipartisan approach to legalization “would be a great thing. I think the time is right.”
Philadelphia voters also approved a referendum on marijuana legalization this month that adds a section to the city charter saying that “the citizens of Philadelphia call upon the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor to pass legislation that will decriminalize, regulate, and tax the use, and sale to adults aged 21 years or older, of cannabis for non-medical purposes.”
Wolf said earlier this year that marijuana legalization was a priority as he negotiated the annual budget with lawmakers. However, his formal spending request didn’t contain legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change.
The governor, who signed a medical cannabis expansion bill in June, has repeatedly called for legalization and pressured the Republican-controlled legislature to pursue the reform since coming out in favor of the policy in 2019. Shortly after he did that, a lawmaker filed a separate bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.
A survey from Franklin & Marshall College released this month found that 60 percent of Pennsylvania voters back adult-use legalization. That’s the highest level of support for the issue since the firm started polling people about it in 2006.
An attempt to provide protections for Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients from being charged with driving under the influence was derailed in the legislature last week, apparently due to pushback by the state police association.
Mexican Senators Circulate Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill, With Vote Expected Within Weeks
A draft bill to legalize and regulate marijuana sales in Mexico is being circulated among senators, and a top lawmaker says the plan is to vote on the proposal before December 15.
While the legislation hasn’t been formally introduced yet, the draft measure largely reflects an earlier version the Senate passed late last year, with some revisions.
Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal Avila of the ruling MORENA party has been pushing for the reform and recently said that there’s agreement among leading lawmakers to prioritize legislation to regulate cannabis.
▶️ La elección de ministra o ministro de la @SCJN y de magistrados del Tribunal Electoral en 17 estados, así como la regulación del cannabis; son algunos de los temas que el presidente de la Junta de Coordinación Política, @RicardoMonrealA, espera se aprueben pronto en el Senado. pic.twitter.com/YIzgA5wcLn
— Senado de México (@senadomexicano) November 22, 2021
The Mexican Supreme Court declared nearly three years ago that the country’s prohibition on the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis was unconstitutional. Lawmakers were then obligated to enact the policy change but have since been unable to reach a consensus on legislation to put in place regulations for a marijuana program.
At the request of legislators, the court agreed to extend its deadline for Congress to formally end prohibition on multiple occasions. But because of the repeated failed attempts to meet those deadlines, justices ultimately voted to end criminalization on their own in June.
Monreal previously said that the stage is set for lawmakers to actually pass a marijuana legalization bill during the new session after multiple attempts in recent years fell short of getting over the finish line.
Under the draft bill that’s currently being circulated, adults 18 and older would be allowed to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.
Members of the Senate Health and Justice Committees were tapped to formulate the draft of a cannabis bill.
Es importante recordar que el anteproyecto de regulación de #cannabis que fue circulado no ha sido presentado oficialmente. Aún falta unos pasos. Diría que es una ley digna de aprobarse con algunos ajustes menores (eliminar posesión simple y restricciones a clubes). #UrgeRegular
— Zara Snapp (@zarasnapp) November 24, 2021
The text of the measure states that the purpose of the reform is to promote “public health, human rights and sustainable development” and to “improve the living conditions of the people who live in the United Mexican States.”
It would further “prevent and combat the consequences of problematic consumption of psychoactive cannabis and contribute to the reduction of the crime incidence linked to drug trafficking, promoting peace, security and individual and community well-being.”
Regulators would be tasked with developing separate rules to regulate cannabis for adult-use, research and industrial production.
The bill would establish a Mexican Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis, which would be a decentralized body under the Ministry of Health. It would also be responsible for issuing licenses, overseeing the program and promoting public education campaigns around marijuana.
Retail licenses would need to be issued within 18 months of the enactment of the law.
In order to “compensate the damages generated by the prohibition,” the bill states that at least 40 percent of marijuana cultivation licenses would need to go to communities most impacted by cannabis criminalization for at least the first five years of implementation. After that point, at least 20 percent of licenses would need to be reserved for equity applicants.
After the Supreme Court independently invalidated prohibition earlier this year, advocates stressed that the decision underscores the need for legislators to expeditiously pass a measure to implement a comprehensive system of legal and regulated sales. They want to ensure that a market is established that’s equitable, addresses the harms of criminalization on certain communities and promotes personal freedom.
Advocates are pleased to see Senate leadership take seriously the need to establish regulations and provide access to cannabis for adults, but they have identified some provisions as problematic.
For example, possessing more than 200 grams of marijuana could still result in prison time.
❌ Se sigue penalizando la posesión simple, es decir, la posesión para fines de consumo personal (no suministro ni comercio). Esto quiere decir que, si posees más de 200 gramos, puedes ser condenado de 10 meses a 3 años de prisión.
— México Unido (@MUCD) November 23, 2021
Senate President Olga Sánchez Cordero, who previously served at a cabinet-level position in President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration, recently said that “there is no longer room for the prohibitionist policy.” And she also says the influence of the U.S. is to blame for failed marijuana criminalization laws in her country.
The Senate approved a legalization bill late last year, and then the Chamber of Deputies made revisions and passed it in March, sending it back to the originating chamber. A couple of Senate committees then took up and cleared the amended measure, but leaders quickly started signaling that certain revisions made the proposal unworkable.
After the Chamber of Deputies previously approved the Senate-passed legalization bill, senators said that the revised proposal was critically internally conflicted—on provisions concerning legal possession limits, the definition of hemp and other issues—and lawmakers themselves could be subject to criminal liability if it went into effect as drafted.
But Monreal said in April that if the court were to make a declaration of unconstitutionality before a measure to regulate cannabis was approved, it would result in “chaos.”
The top senator also talked about the importance of lawmakers taking their time to craft good policy and not rush amidst lobbying from tobacco and pharmaceutical industry interests.
“We must not allow ourselves to be pressured by interests,” he said at the time. “The Senate must act with great prudence in this matter.”
Sen. Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar of the MORENA party said in April that “at this time, it is important to legislate in the terms that are presented to us” and then consider additional revisions to cannabis laws through subsequent bills.
That’s the position many legalization advocates took as well, urging lawmakers to pass an imperfect bill immediately and then work on fixing it later.
Mexico’s president said in December that a vote on legalization legislation was delayed due to minor “mistakes” in the proposal.
The legalization bill cleared a joint group of Senate committees prior to the full floor vote in that chamber last year, with some amendments being made after members informally considered and debated the proposal during a virtual hearing.
Members of the Senate’s Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies Committees had approved a prior version of legal cannabis legislation last year as well, but the pandemic delayed consideration of the issue. Sen. Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar of the MORENA party said in April that legalizing cannabis could fill treasury coffers at a time when the economy is recovering from the health crisis.
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.
Late last year, Sánchez Cordero, then 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 Sánchez Cordero, a marijuana joint on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies in 2019. That joint is now framed and hangs in her office.
Cannabis made another appearance in the legislature last year, 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.
Read the draft marijuana legalization bill that’s being circulated in Mexico’s Senate below: