The law to legalize marijuana in Mexico advanced on Wednesday and will now go to the upper house for a second review, amid criticism from experts and consumer associations in the expectation of having a regulation that, they say, will not meet the objectives raised.
Thanks to the ruling majority of the Morena party and its allies, the plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies approved the initiative but made several changes to the text endorsed by the Senate, so this chamber will have to re-analyze the document.
The opponents of the National Action Party and the Institutional Revolutionary were against a law that, in their opinion, will increase the consumption of this drug.
The text generally endorsed by the deputies – and whose details were still being discussed on Wednesday night – allows recreational use of cannabis and maintains a licensing system for all those involved in the chain of production, distribution, transformation and sale of marijuana for all types of use.
In addition, it incorporates the need for individuals – and not just user associations – to obtain a permit to grow plants at home for self-consumption. Each person could have 6 floors, with a maximum of 8 per household.
One of the most radical changes made by the deputies was to eliminate the creation of a Mexican Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis and leave control of the market in the hands of the National Commission Against Addictions (CONADIC), an entity that, according to the experts, it does not have the capacity or the faculties to regulate such a complex market.
“They are going to make the law inoperative,” lamented Lisa Sánchez, director of México Unido contra la Delinquency, a non-governmental organization that has spent years fighting for the legalization of marijuana in the country.
In 2015, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled in favor of the use of cannabis for recreational purposes, and in 2019, after accepting several similar injunctions and establishing jurisprudence, it ordered to legislate on the subject because prohibiting the use of marijuana was unconstitutional. Medicinal use had already been approved in 2017.
José Luis Martínez was one of the beneficiaries. As he explained, he did not want to promote cannabis markets marked by drug trafficking violence and that is why he chose to request a permit for self-cultivation and, when they denied him, he protected himself.
Now, thanks to the Supreme Court, he can legally “sow, cultivate, harvest, prepare, possess and transport” marijuana.
“The only limit that this protection has is that it be for personal purposes,” he told the AP while showing the 40 plants he currently cares for.
Thanks to pressure from civil society and after repeated decisions by the highest court, the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador promoted the debate to achieve a full legalization of this drug, but legislators had to request three extensions to the Supreme Court, which now it gave them until April 30 to have a law on the subject.
Morena, López Obrador’s party, defends that the current proposal has a focus on respect for human rights and will reduce violence, since control of the market will pass from the cartels to the authorities.
However, experts fear that neither the peasants – the weakest link in drug trafficking – nor the consumers will be the main beneficiaries, but rather the transnational industries.
Sánchez gave as an example that with the changes envisaged by the deputies, actions that were going to favor the communities of peasants and small producers are eliminated.
The expert acknowledged that it is the first time that Mexico has made so much progress in the process of regulating this drug, but considered that the current text will hardly solve problems that the country wishes to tackle.
If the law is approved as it is, adults will be able to consume marijuana without affecting third parties or minors, but possessing more than 28 grams will be sanctioned with different fines depending on the weight, or with prison sentences for those who have more than 5.6 kilos .
They are not “guaranteeing a right” as ordered by the Supreme Court, complained José Rivera, director of the Mexican Cannabis Movement. “They are tolerating privileges and protecting something that did not have to be protected if it is not more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco.”
In addition, analysts and consumer groups recalled that the possibility of someone with marijuana being arrested or extorted in order to increase the collection of fines is not eliminated.
In 2016, Mexico began to grant permits for the legal importation of cannabis products for medicinal use, and a year later it approved such use, a use that is also legal in several Latin American countries. The last to approve it was Argentina.
But recreational use is only legal in one Latin American country: Uruguay.
Even if the upper house does not change anything to the text in its second revision, it will take time for the law to become a reality, because the necessary regulations and adjustments will have to be made to other norms.
In the case of the medicinal use of marijuana, although the law was approved in 2017, its regulations were only endorsed in January of this year.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.