Will Mexico Legalize Cannabis Before the U.S.?

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Following a 2018 ruling by Mexico’s Supreme Court, the onus is now on the Senate to pass legislation before the end of the year.

 

In a year measured in seconds, one can be forgiven for forgetting recent news that the U.S. House of Representatives scheduled a vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act for this month.

Though that vote would have represented a watershed moment for cannabis advocates seeking to undo the harms wrought by the 1971 Controlled Substances Act, it was unceremoniously cancelled on Sept. 17. As an op-ed published by NORML in response to the news noted, “this is a delay of justice; it is as simple as that.”

While a vote by the end of the year ostensibly remains on the table, the choice to delay any concrete action until after the U.S. election on November 3 is being met with disappointment by those who felt the timing was, in fact, ideal for the Democratic-controlled wing of Congress to pass the MORE Act.

By contrast, as the U.S. continues to stall on pursuing meaningful cannabis policy reform, Mexico’s Senate is expected to introduce legislation regulating the consumption and sale of cannabis before the end of the year.

The timeline for the Senate to act was provided by a 2018 ruling from Mexico’s Supreme Court. That landmark decision, in which Mexico’s prohibition on personal possession and cultivation of cannabis was deemed unconstitutional, stipulated that Mexico lawmakers had until Dec. 15 of this year to put policy changes in place.

The process hasn’t been without its share of spectacle.

On Sept. 1, Sen. Jesusa Rodríguez (of the ruling Morena party) arrived to a new session of Congress with a marijuana plant in hand. She used it as a decoration on her desk in the chamber as a means of underscoring the idea that cannabis reform would be a priority for the party. In a tweet posted by Rodriguez that featured a photo of her unusual botanical ornament, she reaffirmed this stance.

“Priority issue in the Senate for this period,” was the text accompanying the image.

The move by Rodriguez follows a 2019 incident in which, as Marijuana Moment reports, a lawmaker gave a key member of the president’s cabinet a joint while speaking on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies:

“The gift from Deputy Ana Lucía Riojas Martínez, an independent, was meant to serve as a reminder of Secretary of the Interior Olga Sánchez Cordero’s cannabis legalization proposal, which she introduced while still a lawmaker [in 2018].”

There has yet to be any such tactics employed in the U.S., where one struggles to imagine how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would respond to being handed a fat jay. Perhaps if it was all hemp? Regardless, these bold gestures on the part of Rodriguez and Martinez indicate not only the impressive sense of humor possessed by both lawmakers but also the lengths they are willing to go to ensure action is taken.

And their efforts appear to be working.

As recently as August 20, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed to reporters his expectation that marijuana legalization would pass through the Senate in its next session, adding that he wouldn’t stand in the way of any such bills becoming law.

“Yes, they are going to decide freely, listening to the opinion of all the parties,” López Obrador said. “There have already been consultations, and if they are going to decide on this matter, that is, there is going to be a legal reform.”

There is already a bill that has passed through several committees on its way to a full vote by the Senate. Details remain subject to change, but for now, the legislation includes provisions to allow for adults ages 18 and older to possess and cultivate cannabis for personal use. Each individual would be allowed to grow a maximum of 20 registered plants, with additional provisions allowed for medical patients.

In total, each citizen would be permitted to possess a maximum of 28 grams — or one ounce — though possession of up to 200 grams would still be decriminalized as well.

In the world of politics, nothing can ever be considered a lock until the gavel drops. That said, it appears some are getting impatient to celebrate and have taken to toking in a Mexico City cannabis garden they’ve named Plantón 420. The garden was cultivated with seeds planted by pro-marijuana activists in early February.

Located next to the Senate building in Luis Pasteur park, Mexico News Daily reports that “Mexico City police are turning a blind eye to pot smokers who light up.” Serving as a host to marijuana activists who reportedly “camp out at the site… cook, eat and garden together,” the scene offers yet another glimpse into how quickly public opinion, on an international scale, is siding with cannabis.

Now it’s time to see if the law will evolve in kind. On this front, Mexico has clearly taken the lead. Will the U.S. follow?

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