On December. 10th, The Mexico Supreme Court accepted a last-minute petition from the Lower House of Congress to postpone the vote on recreational cannabis legalization in the country, originally scheduled for December 15th. Mexican legislators now have until April 30th, 2021 to make “marihuana” legal south of the border.
Though the vote had been postponed twice before, cannabis-enthusiasts were optimistic that the bill would pass this December. Marijuana prohibition was declared unconstitutional by the Mexico Supreme Court in 2018, and the bill to officially legalize it for adult use was approved by the country’s senate in November, 2020.
Here are the key components of Mexico’s pending recreational cannabis legalization bill, as it stands today:
- Adults 18 and older will be able to legally possess and purchase up to 28 grams of cannabis and cultivate up to six plants (eight plants maximum for homes with more than one resident.)
- The Mexican Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis will be established to regulate the cannabis industry.
- 40% of cannabis business licenses would be granted to those of low-income or marginalized communities for the first five years.
- Possession of up to 200 grams of cannabis will be decriminalized.
- Consumption will be allowed in private homes where all adults have given consent
The President of Mexico said in a press briefing that the bill had flaws that needed to be addressed, and that these issues were the primary reasons for the extension.
Zara Snapp, Co-Founder of Mexican cannabis advocacy organization Instituto RIA, said the deadline extension, while disappointing, will ultimately make the bill stronger – particularly in regard to decriminalization and public smoking.
“Congress did not have enough time to really analyze this bill before passing it, so we expect the postponement to result in positive changes for the bill,” Snapp told GreenState. “During the public hearings, numerous experts, academics, and advocates stressed that we must eliminate simple possession and public smoking as a crime, and we also hope that they decide to increase the percentage of licenses that are exclusively for communities impacted by prohibition or that form part of the social sector.”
For cannabis-enthusiasts in the United States, there is another silver lining to the vote postponement: Legalization in Mexico could influence legislators in the United States to create a similar bill at a time when there may actually be enough cannabis supporters in congress to pass it.
The legalization of recreational marijuana in Mexico would put a tremendous amount of pressure on the U.S. to follow suit. With approximately 87 million adults in the country, Mexico would automatically be the largest legal cannabis market in the world, and legalization there would sandwich the U.S. between two countries that have legalized adult use.
Violet Cavendish, Communications Manager at Marijuana Policy Project, told GreenState that, if Democrats win the Senate this January, the combination of geographic pressure and majority approval in Congress could make federal legalization of recreational cannabis a reality in the next few years.
“If Mexico is successful in passing legislation to legalize marijuana, the United States would be bordered by two nations that have effectively ended prohibition,” Cavendish said. “This would likely influence the U.S. lawmakers to look at Mexico as an example of how to address our country’s broken marijuana laws at the national level by once again proving the sky does not fall when sensible legalization policies are enacted.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to clarify that the current bill to legalize cannabis in Mexico would not allow for the public smoking of marijuana, but rather that some are advocating for an amendment that would allow for smoking marijuana anywhere smoking tobacco is legal.
Elissa Esher is Assistant Editor at GreenState. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Guardian, Brooklyn Paper, Religion Unplugged, and Iridescent Women. Send inquiries and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.