Last night history was made in Mexico when lawmakers in the lower legislative chamber, the Chamber of Deputies passed legislation to legalize recreational cannabis.
This landmark vote comes in the aftermath of the 2018 ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court that federal prohibition of recreation cannabis use in unconstitutional. Now the bill will be headed to the upper chamber where it is subject to revision before heading to the desk of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador where it is widely expected to pass.
The measure as it currently passed would allow adults (18+) to grow their own cannabis as well as obtain permits to grow from home. It would also grant licenses to producers of all sizes to cultivate and sell. Once passed, it would make Mexico the largest cannabis market in the world by population. The measure has a deadline of April 30.
- That the bill will do little to curtail cartel violence given the pivot to fentanyl and avocados as their top products
- The measure is unwelcome in a country with nearly 2/3s of people oppose legalization
- It will do little to “substantially change the dynamics and drivers of lethal conflict in Mexico.”
- Legalization opens up new opportunities for tax revenue
- The measure is an important step towards building peace and ending the drug war.
- It’s a symbolic breakthrough
- It’s good for tourism
What does this mean for the US?
Currently, only Canada and Uruguay are the only two countries in North America to have legalized recreational cannabis nationally. If and once this bill passes, the US will find itself sandwiched between “two pot-selling neighbors” as the New York Time said. Uruguay was the first country to legalize cannabis in 2013.
Top Democratic Senators such as Chuck Schumer have vowed to end federal prohibition this year, and states such as Virginia and Hawai’i have recently joined the list of 15 states who have passed measures for legalization. But will it actually happen?
In my home state of New York, previous legalization bills have stalled and failed, so I don’t have high hopes for Cuomo’s current initiative. Critics have raised the issue of unequal funding opportunities for rural and minority business owners, the inability for home growing, and refusal to grant delivery services (He has since proposed amendments that critics say still fall short).
During NYS Women in Cannabis Lobby Day (hosted by Women Grow), support was voiced over and over again for the legalization effort in the state legislature called Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). This measure supports home growing, restorative justice to communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, and more.
The NY Cannabis Growers and Processors Association has stated “The MRTA does an excellent job allowing for social consumption, cannabis home grow, microbusinesses, home delivery and funding for social equity applicants. These policies should be, without question, integrated into any final legislation enacted by the state.”
With the legislature indicating they’d prefer to pass the MRTA before beginning negotiations with the Governor’s Office, it is unlikely that Cuomo’s proposal will be accepted by the April 1 deadline. But lawmakers have indicated they would like to pass legalization for recreational use in the 2021 session.
Even with legalization at the state level, businesses still face challenges presented by the federal prohibition, particularly when it comes to banking and financing.
We live in a time when the end to the failed war on drugs is coming in successively bigger waves. Will the US get on board with legalization this year or even within this administration? Or will they continue to choose racist policies backed by false science?
Stay tuned, I guess.