Clock is ticking as Mexico approaches deadline to legalize cannabis

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Time is running out to make cannabis legalization a reality in Mexico.

Two years ago, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the ban on adult-use, recreational cannabis was unconstitutional. Mexican lawmakers were given a one-year deadline, until October 2019, to amend the country’s regulations.

They not only missed that deadline, they then missed the rescheduled deadline of April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, with a Dec. 15 deadline looming, lawmakers have just 61 days to pass a cannabis bill and there are still more questions than answers about what Mexico’s approach to legalization will look like.

In August, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador assured that legalization was in the works, stating that “there is going to be legal reform” when lawmakers reconvened in the fall.

In the meantime, cannabis activists have set up a cannabis garden next to Mexico’s Senate building, reminding politicians and lawmakers alike that the issue is not going away.

“We want (Mexican lawmakers) to understand that we are smoking quietly and that we are not a risk to anyone,” Jose Rivera, a cannabis activist, told Reuters last month. “Enough of the mistreatment.”

An early draft of cannabis reforms had been criticized by legalization advocates for favouring large corporations and instituting expensive requirements, like seed-to-sale tracking, that all but eliminate smaller growers from entering the market.

“They’re not thinking about users,” Pepe Rivera, a member of the Mexican Cannabis Movement, told Yahoo Finance. “They’re thinking about the industry.”

Corporate lobbyists representing the Canadian and U.S. cannabis industries have also been accused of meddling in the legalization efforts.

“It’s basically revitalizing prohibition for the poor, but carving out a legal market for big businesses,” Alejandro Madrazo, a researcher at Mexico’s Center for Economic Research and Teaching think tank, told Yahoo.

Mexico, with a population of about 130 million people, is set to become the world’s largest legal cannabis market.

“The impact would be quite significant,” Lisa Pittman, a cannabis attorney at the Rose law firm in Texas, told Hemp Industry Daily earlier this year. “The other countries that have already legalized cannabis — Canada and Uruguay — have populations much smaller than Mexico, and Mexico already has quite a history of using cannabis and shipping cannabis across our borders,” Pittman said.

If the early draft of the bill passes into Mexican law, personal possession would be capped at 28 grams, but possession of up t0 200 grams would be decriminalized. Additionally, individuals could grow as many as 20 registered plants.

Senate leader Ricardo Monreal has denied that lobbyists are steering the direction of the bill. “There has been a lot of interference … transnational companies that have wanted to influence our decisions,” Monreal told Yahoo. “But we make the final decision.”

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