After a long delay, the Mexican Senate passes a bill to legalize marijuana. The move was revealed on Thursday, although the bill must still be approved by the Chamber of Deputies of the country, the other body of their Congress. 

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This is a comprehensive adult-use marijuana legalization bill and the first of its kind in the Latin American country. An early draft from this legislation circulated in early November and established a regulated cannabis market in Mexico, allowing adults 18 or older to buy or possess up to 28 grams of weed and have a maximum of six plants for personal use. 

Historic change in marijuana policy

Despite being a historic change in the country’s policies, putting years of social and political conflict due to the War on Drugs behind, the potential law still has some more changes to go through before it is fully approved. 

However, it’s expected that if it goes through, the law will pave the way towards a cannabis market in Latin-America’s second-largest consumer of pot. 

Several revisions later

Previous drafts had several revisions, like limiting to four self-cultivated plants.

An additional change mandates that the government clear criminal records of people with past cannabis convictions within six months.

Nonprofit associations of consumers that cultivate cannabis have to stay at least 500 meters away from schools, sports and recreation centers as part of the legalization plan. 

Bill Approved with 82 votes

When voted on the Senate floor, the bill was approved in general terms with 82 votes in favor, seven abstentions and 18 against. Specific articles are the next items on the agenda. 

Beside the chamber, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador would have to sign a final approval, if he has no objections. This would make Mexico the third country to legalize adult-use of marijuana. 

The other two countries on the list were Canada in 2018 and Uruguay in 2013. 

Near term opportunities unlikely

While tax revenue on the marijuana markets all over the world has proved profitable, near term opportunities in the business won’t be available. 

Even after the law is approved, a cannabis agency must be established and secondary rules regarding use and distribution of marijuana have to be drawn up.

Months-long fight in the Senate

It’s been a months-long fight to reach this milestone. Lawmakers in the Senate were given October 2019 as a deadline, but since there wasn’t a consensus, the Supreme Court extended the deadline to April 2020. Adding to that, the COVID-10 pandemic pushed the timeline forward even more.

Now, a law must be approved by December 15, 2020. 

While medical cannabis was approved in Mexico in 2017 with a reform of the health and criminal law, it was never completely implemented. Patients weren’t able to access medical cannabis products and business was inneffective. 

The new bill would focus on recreational marijuana

The current version of the bill doesn’t regulate medical weed, but focuses more so on recreational marijuana and industrial hemp. 

When compared with other countries’ road to legalization, Canada’s was oriented towards public-health, as was Uruguay’s. However, Mexico’s bill is oriented towards the free development of social justice and peace. 

Regardless, the bill has a strong emphasis on sustainability. And for business licenses, the draft favors vulnerable or marginalized communities. 

Celebrating cannabis reform

Cannabis reform in Mexico is something to celebrate, especially by local advocates, as the fight to make this happen has been long and hard. However, concerns remain about high penalties for violating rules and even more so on creating opportunities for small farmers in the legal marijuana market. 

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