Last Wednesday, the lower chamber of the Mexican Congress approved a bill that would legalise recreational marijuana. With a population of nearly 130 million people, Mexico would join Canada and Uruguay as the only countries to legalise marijuana at the national level in the continent and it would become the world’s largest legal market.
The measure allows adults to smoke marijuana and grow a small number of cannabis plants at home. It would also grant licenses for producers to cultivate and sell the crop. The bill has passed to the Senate, which approved an earlier version of the bill but will have to vote on changes made by the lower chamber, before being sent to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has signalled his support.
40 percent of cultivation licenses for the first five years would be reserved for the communities that have been disproportionately impacted by criminal enforcement.
The product is widely adopted for treating various ailments such as Parkinson’s disease, neurological conditions, arthritis, and cancer among others. Legal marijuana can also be used in pain management therapies.
The move comes almost five years after the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting people from using marijuana for personal use was unconstitutional, and two years after legislation that legalised medical marijuana was signed into law.
In October of 2018, the Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to take action, stating that the ban on recreational use of marijuana was unconstitutional. A 90-days deadline was set but it has been extended multiple times.
The measure does not have widespread popular support: around 58 percent of Mexicans are opposed to legalisation, according to a poll conducted by El Financiero.
It also has fierce opposition from religious leaders. “The bill that was approved does not address the health damages that arise from an ever-increasing use of marijuana, does not address the effects on families due to young people’s consumption of drugs, and does not contribute to reducing and inhibiting exposure to drugs,” said the Catholic Mexican Bishops Council.
A mega market
Grand View Research said in a recent study the global legal market for the plant could be worth US $73.6 billion by 2027. North America accounted for the largest revenue share in 2020 with 91.1 percent, in part because of the early legalisation of medical and recreational cannabis in the region and the large customer base.
Legalisation around the world
- Uruguay: The South American nation became the first country in the world to legalise the production and sale of marijuana at a national level. Other countries in the region (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Peru) allow its medical use.
- Canada: The country legalised marijuana for recreational use in 2019. Regulations vary across the 10 provinces and three territories. For instance, people in Ontario can only purchase marijuana online via the government-run Ontario Cannabis Store, whereas in Saskatchewan, only licensed private retail stores can sell pot. In Quebec, people can smoke anywhere tobacco is allowed.
- United States: The same day voters were electing Joe Biden president, all five states that had cannabis legalisation measures on their ballots passed overwhelmingly (Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Mississippi). As a result, 15 states, which also includes D.C, now have legal adult-use markets while 36 states have approved medical markets.
- Europe: No country has approved the recreational use of cannabis, even though several have decriminalised it and others allow the medicinal use.
- New Zealand: On October of last year, voters narrowly rejected a referendum on the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use. The proposal failed after 50.7 percent said “no”. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that her government will not legalise cannabis for recreational use, even though she voted in favour of the proposal.
- South Africa: In September 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that it is no longer a criminal offense for an adult to use, possess, or grow cannabis in private for personal consumption.
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