México: The Long Road to Legalization
The current cannabis situation in México has been complex and fraught with delays. We will do our best to break down the ins and outs of the overlapping framework of laws and court rulings that have been years in the making.
In 2009 México decriminalized the carrying of small amounts of drugs on one's person. It established maximum amounts which could be considered "personal use".
Under the new law, anyone caught with up to five grams of cannabis will be advised to seek a drug rehabilitation center rather than arrested or fined. This change allowed law enforcement to focus on major traffickers rather than consumers. In practice, minor drug possession was already widely tolerated by the Mexican police. However, the fact remains you could still face charges for cultivation, selling, and trafficking of an illegal substances for cannabis.
Legal adult use of cannabis has been at the heart of a growing rebellion in México for many years. Yet, it was only 2017 that the country legalized the regulated medical use of cannabis and only months since its full implementation this past January. This law allowed for the medical use of cannabis with a THC level below 1% ostensibly making it a CBD-only bill. This leaves a significant gap for patients who benefit from THC but not CBD.
In The Courts
In November 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that four individuals from the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use (SMART) would be permitted to grow and consume their own cannabis. The court voted 4–1 that prohibiting people from growing the drug for personal consumption was unconstitutional as it violated the human right to the free development of one's personality.
On October 3, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the law prohibiting the recreational use of cannabis in México was unconstitutional. As this was the fifth time that the court had ruled in such a way, it set a binding precedent across the country's court system. But, the fight to achieve legal recreational use of cannabis was just beginning.
México has been on the front lines of countries immersed in the war against drug trafficking and cultivation for decades. For that reason, the deadline for the legalization of recreational cannabis has been extended for more than two years.
Finally, on March 10th, 2021, the laws regulating recreational cannabis were approved by the Chamber of Deputies. It passed with 316 Deputies voting in favor and 129 Deputies voting against the measure. However, the new law is yet to be enacted due to additional modifications being made to the bill. Senators will have to re-evaluate the bill before presenting it to the current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has signaled support for the legislation. The legalization bill is widely expected to pass the Senate.
This law would allow Mexicans to smoke marijuana and, with a permit, to grow a small number of cannabis plants at home. It would also grant licenses to growers - from small farmers to commercial producers - to cultivate and sell the harvest.
Could México become a major player in the cannabis trade? The simple answer is yes. With the current regulations, México would be the third country on the American continent to legalize cannabis throughout its territory. Canada and Uruguay being the other two.
Studies reveal that by population, México would represent the most significant legal cannabis market globally with approximately 2.3 million consumers and the potential to reach up to $3.2 billion a year in the country.
So, yes cannabis cultivation could become big business for México, leaving the United States between two cannabis-selling neighbors - México and Canada.