Mexico is slowly getting closer to becoming the world’s largest legal cannabis market as lawmakers prepare to debate a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.
The House of Deputies, the lower house of Congress similar to the US House of Representatives, will address the issue early next week, said Martha Tagle Martinez, a member of the House health committee. in a series of tweets.
The Senate approved the legalization of medical marijuana almost four months ago, and two months later, the Ministry of Health published rules to regulate the use of medical cannabis.
Former President Vicente Fox, who sits on the board of the global medical marijuana company Khiron Life Sciences Corp., said he sees the potential for Mexico to capitalize on much-needed job creation, economic investment and medical advances. .
A regulated market could also help reduce the cartel violence that has become synonymous with the country.
“A lot of wonderful things will happen,” he said. “We are taking this beautiful plant from criminals and putting it in the hands of retailers and farmers.”
Mexico has been steadily moving towards creating a cannabis market since 2015, when a federal judge ruled in favor of importing cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, for medical reasons. The ruling originated in a case involving a young woman suffering from a severe form of epilepsy.
The girl’s parents, Grace Elizalde, who was 8 at the time, had tried almost everything to treat her Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which caused 400 seizures a day. In their most desperate moment, the family drove three hours to Laredo, Texas, to purchase Cosyntropin, a synthetic peptide that can be used to treat seizures. The drug cost more than $ 5,000, said Grace’s father, Raúl Elizalde, who is now the president of the international CBD company HempMeds.
Elizalde eventually reached out to a Mexican lawmaker who publicly supported the adoption of cannabis legislation in Mexico after the state of Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. That legislator, Fernando Belaunzarán, wrote a letter to the Mexican health secretary on behalf of the Elizalde family, requesting permission to import cannabis oil for Grace’s treatment.
Initially, the Ministry of Health rejected the request, but a federal judge intervened and allowed Elizalde to import CBD.
“There wasn’t a lot of information back then in 2015,” Elizalde said. “It was difficult to find information on cannabis, especially CBD.”
Elizalde said Grace’s doctor was interested in research being carried out around the world on CBD as a possible treatment for epilepsy and thought it was worth a try for her daughter, who is now 13 years old. His seizures have dropped to around 20 on a bad day. Elizalde said.
In 2017, Enrique Peña Nieto, the president at the time, signed a bill allowing the medical use of marijuana products that contain less than 1 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. The bill also asked the Health Ministry to draft and implement regulations for the infant industry.
It took Mexico three more years to finalize the regulations. During that time, public perception gradually changed as more families spoke publicly about the use of cannabis-derived drugs to treat various ailments.
“The domino effect is happening,” Fox said. “The number one challenge is to transmit, inform and educate consumers and patients. And also educate the medical community. There are still some doubts in the Mexican culture.”
In a poll published last year in the daily El Financiero, 58 percent of those surveyed opposed full legalization. But among those surveyed under the age of 40, more than half said they were in favor of legalizing cannabis.
“Mexico is changing,” Elizalde said. “We never thought we would change the law. Now it is changing faster than we thought possible.”
While the path to full legalization appears to have accelerated, especially compared to the United States’ debate over the so-called war on drugs, Mexico’s path has not necessarily been driven by public or political demand. Instead, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued a series of five rulings declaring the prohibition of cannabis use unconstitutional.
Under Mexican law, the number of decisions required to set a precedent is five.
“Mexico took the path of legalization because of a quirk in the way its judicial system works,” said Andrew Rudman, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan research organization.
While the court’s mandate forced legislators to build a framework to regulate cannabis, it did not necessarily generate a desire among elected officials to do so quickly.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador campaigned on the promise of changing the country’s approach to its war on drugs, including negotiating peace and amnesty for those involved or affected by illegal drug trafficking. Despite his campaign promises, legalizing cannabis is not necessarily a top priority, Rudman said.
“It was more that the court basically told Congress, ‘You have to do this,'” he said.
With time running out for Mexico to finalize its recreational and medicinal cannabis programs, the United States could be left in an awkward position if its neighbors to the north and south have established legal frameworks. Canada legalized recreational cannabis in 2018; Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug in the US.
“It creates some really interesting business problems,” Rudman said. “The legalization of Mexico will strengthen the momentum, if not legalization, decriminalization in the United States.”
The Chamber of Deputies has until the end of April to comply with the court order to legalize cannabis.