Many may think of Mexico as a drug haven, but it is only this year that the country legalized medical marijuana. In June 2017, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a bill legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and classifying its psychoactive ingredient THC as therapeutic.
However, the new policy stipulates that only marijuana products containing a maximum of 1 per cent of THC are allowed. This means that the new law does not really open the door for medical marijuana dispensaries at just about every corner.
How it began
In November 2015, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued an order stating that the recreational use of cannabis is constitutionally legal because it falls under a person’s right to “free development” of his or her personality. The ruling, however, was applicable only to four defendants in a particular court case. With the amount of public interest resulting from that ruling and with many questioning how it would apply to the rest of Mexico, the government was forced to confront the issue.
In January 2016, the government launched a national debate on whether or not it should overhaul its marijuana laws. President Nieto had been very vocal about his opposition to legalizing marijuana, but he stated that the administration may be open to effecting changes in the country’s marijuana policies.
A series of five public debates were held across the country, which included inputs from legal, medical, and academic experts regarding the health implications, costs, regulations, and the relationship between decriminalizing marijuana and violence. In order to further educate the public, the government also launched a website where people can check out various academic and scientific papers related to marijuana consumption.
In April 2016, Nieto called for a re-examination of international drug policy during the U.N. General Assembly Special Sessions, saying that the solutions that have been implemented by the global community when it comes to drug-related crimes have been insufficient. He stated that the international community should move beyond prohibition and start focusing on effective prevention.
In December 2016, the medical cannabis bill had received great support in the Senate, where it passed on a 98-7 vote. In April this year, the Lower House of Congress approved the bill with a 374-7 vote.
The bill was also publicly endorsed by Dr. Jose Narro Robles, Mexico’s Secretary of Health.
Provisions of the bill
The president’s decree effectively eliminates the prohibition and criminalization of medical marijuana and all marijuana-related research. It also made the production and distribution of medical marijuana legal.
Currently, however, only medical marijuana containing 1 per cent or less of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, is permitted.
The new law also gives the Ministry of Health the authority to create and implement new regulations pertaining to the use of marijuana, as well as new regulations on national production and research. The ministry, however, is also required to study the therapeutic effects of marijuana before it could create the framework for its medical marijuana program.
Advocates say the bill is only a “tiny” step forward
With recreational marijuana still being broadly prohibited in the country, some marijuana advocates, civil rights groups, and even senators think that the new policy does not go far enough and is but a “tiny” step forward. Senator Miguel Barbosa, for one, said that the new decree was way below society’s “expectations.” And, according to Senator Armando Rios Peter, the legislation is not far from being a “failed drug policy.”
However, there are those who consider the new law a significant progress for the marijuana community. They see it as just the beginning of many reforms to come. As the Ministry of Health conducts its research, it will eventually expand the law’s parameters, and they are positive that this will, in time, lead to the creation of a legal recreational market.