The Mexican Senate’s majority leader said the chamber is set to vote on a marijuana legalization bill before the end of October.
Ricardo Monreal, Senate leader of the ruling MORENO party, said the bill – which would establish Mexico as the world’s largest legal cannabis market – is “likely to pass” congress’ upper chamber. The bill would then head over to the Chamber of Deputies for deliberation.
The measure has been in motion ever since the Supreme Court’s landmark 2018 ruling that determined Mexico’s prohibition on cannabis possession and cultivation is unconstitutional. This forced lawmakers to make plans for legal adult-use cannabis with the court setting an initial deadline of October 2019 for such legislation to pass.
Mexican senators were initially due to vote on a marijuana legalization bill this time last year but disagreements broke out over social equity provisions and the industry’s regulatory framework. The Senate then asked the Supreme Court for an extension to the deadline while a multi-party panel attempted to build consensus on the proposed bill.
The Supreme Court agreed to a new deadline of April 30, 2020 but even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck lawmakers were struggling to pass a marijuana legalization bill in time. After another request from Senate leadership, the Supreme Court granted an extension until the end of the next legislative session – December 15, 2020, – by which time lawmakers must legalize marijuana possession and cultivation.
The latest legalization bill is the result of a joint meeting between the Justice, Health, Legislative and Public Safety Committees just before the coronavirus outbreak. The resulting measure would allow individuals aged 18 and older to legally possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and grow up to 20 registered plants for personal use per year up to a maximum of 480 grams. Marijuana possession up to 200 grams would be decriminalized while qualifying medical cannabis patients could apply for permission to grow more than 20 plants.
The bill would establish the Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis as the body responsible for issuing marijuana business licenses and enforcing market regulations.
The bill would set a marijuana sales tax of 12 percent with a portion of these revenues allocated toward a fund to treat substance misuse issues. Some think the new marijuana legalization proposal doesn’t go far enough to ensure those most harmed by Mexico’s drug war will benefit from a legal industry and that, by the same token, the market isn’t quickly monopolized by large corporations.
The civil rights organization México Unido posted a thread on Twitter detailing these concerns.
According to an internet translation, the group said the bill “allows for the concentration of the market among a few players, leaving the benefits to a handful of companies.”
While many remain concerned about who really stands to benefit from the ultimate marijuana legalization bill, events in and around the Senate concerning the proposal have nonetheless taken on a more lighthearted tone in recent months.
Sen. Jesusa Rodríguez of the MORENA party adorned her desk in the legislature with a cannabis plant, while another lawmaker presented Interior Ministry Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero with a marijuana joint after giving a speech on the floor of congress’ lower chamber.