On March 10, the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Mexican Congress, passes a bill that will regulate recreational use of cannabis, after an extensive process that has lasted more than two years and during which its medical use has been decriminalized. With 316 votes in favor, 129 against and 23 abstentions, the bill proposal still must pass another vote in the Senate on April 30, due to a series of modifications introduced by another law approved last November. The new legislation will bring recreational use of marijuana closer to legality and will set Mexico to become the world’s largest legal cannabis market.
According to the new law, any adult within the Mexican territory is free to smoke cannabis for own personal use but needs to observe some limitations: possession for users will be permitted up to 28 grams and exceeding this amount may result in fines up to 10,000 Mexican pesos (over 400 euros). Additionally, possession over 200 grams will be considered a first-degree felony that can carry penalties of imprisonment. Moreover, the use of marijuana will be limited to private spaces only or spaces designed for this purpose, such as social clubs or associations, and never in the presence of minors. Home growing for personal and recreational use will be allowed as long as you hold the corresponding permit, which will be valid for one year, and it does not exceed six plants per household. In the event that two or more cannabis users live in the same household, they can legally grow as many as eight plants.
The regulatory functions will be assumed by the National Commission against Addictions (CONADIC), dependent on the federal Secretary of Health. The Commission will supervise the whole production process, from cultivation to sale and will be in charge of granting permits and licenses to open cannabis consumers associations. Actually, these cannabis clubs memberships will never exceed 20 members over age 18 and the maximum of 50 plants indoor. New regulation related to labeling and packaging requirements is also strict: specific indications for the intended recreational use of the product, child-resistant sealed packaging and warnings about the potential adverse health effects, among others. Production and consumption permits will have a validity period of up to five years and license fees have yet to be determined. Companies will be able to legally participate in the entire process, from production and distribution to commercialization, and prioritize local communities in the industry that have been traditionally affected, in one way or another, by poverty or violence as a result of the prohibition and persecution policies of the so-called war on drugs.
Under the terms of this new law, Mexico would become the third country in the world, after Canada and Uruguay, to legalize cannabis nationwide. Civil organizations see in this law project an opportunity to end an anti-drug policy regime that has dragged society into a crisis of unusual violence, as well as a unique opportunity to fight against inequality and do justice for the most vulnerable and marginalized people and the long persecuted groups. The creation of a regulated industry, as well as the revenue gained through tax collection, will give some hope for a more favorable economic prospect in the North American country.
Security experts, however, are not optimistic and believe that the reform will not have a significant impact on violence, since they claim cannabis cultivation does not account for the major share of drug trafficking trade in Mexico, where drug cartels deal with substances much more profitable economically, such as methamphetamine.
Supporters of the law argue that the scope is highly symbolic in the effort to put an end to a situation of criminalization and conflict that has cost the lives of many Mexicans, and represents a major step forward and an opportunity for peace that should not be missed.