Several Mexican Senate committees on Friday tentatively approved a revised bill to legalize marijuana during a joint hearing, with a formal in-person vote scheduled next week.
The legislation, which has circulated in draft form this month and further amended ahead of the meeting, would establish a regulated cannabis market in Mexico, allowing adults 18 and older to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and cultivate up to four plants for personal use.
Members of the Senate’s United Commissions of Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies advanced the bill, months after passing an earlier version. The panels first voted to dispense with that previous bill during Friday’s session.
A full Senate vote is expected soon after the committees’ in-person action on Wednesday, though advocates are still hoping for further revisions to promote consumers’ rights and social equity in the legal market.
The legislation as circulated earlier this week would have required individuals to obtain a government permit to cultivate marijuana for personal use, but the technical secretary of the Health Committee said on Friday that the provision was being eliminated.
Lawmakers have been working on the reform legislation for two years since the nation’s Supreme Court ruled in late 2018 that the prohibition on possessing and growing cannabis is unconstitutional. The court ordered Congress to amend the law accordingly, but the legislature has struggled to reach consensus on the issue and has been granted several deadline extensions to enact the policy change.
The current deadline to legalize marijuana is December 15.
Senate President Eduardo Ramírez said on Wednesday that there is a “consensus” to achieve the reform by the court-mandated date.
Advocates have been consistently pushing for legislative action on reform since the court ruling, though they’ve taken issue with certain provisions of lawmakers’ various proposals. Namely, they remain concerned about high penalties that can be imposed for violating the cannabis rules and feel the bill should further promote social equity in the industry.
Ricardo Monreal, the ruling MORENA party’s coordinator in the Senate, said on Friday the proposal is a significant improvement on current laws against possession, which have “only caused the detention centers to be full of people for possession of a few grams of cannabis, which is why they seek to reduce the penalties in carrying of this product.”
Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA and the coalition #RegulacionPorLaPaz, told Marijuana Moment that advocates are “hopeful” because the body seems “open to a few changes” they’re pushing for.
Separately, a cannabis advocacy association raised concerns about certain provisions that they consider excessively restrictive such as limitations on ourdoor cultivation.
The Movement for Legalization 4/2020 said that “if this project is approved without modifications, fundamental parts of this thriving industry will be excluded,” according to a translation.
The legislation does make some attempts to mitigate the influence of large marijuana corporations. For example, it states that for the first five years after implementation, at least 40 percent of cannabis business licenses must be granted to those from indigenous, low-income or historically marginalized communities.
The Mexican Institute of Cannabis would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing licenses.
Public consumption of marijuana would be allowed, except in places where tobacco use is prohibited or at mass gatherings where people under 18 could be exposed.
Households where more than one adult lives would be limited to cultivating a maximum of six plants. The legislation also says people “should not” consume cannabis in homes where there are underaged individuals. Possession of more than 28 grams but fewer than 200 grams would be considered an infraction punishable by a fine but no jail time.
Monreal originally said the chamber would vote on the legalization bill by the end of October, that timeline did not work out.
If the Senate passes the legal cannabis bill it will still have to go before the other house of the nation’s Congress, the Chamber of Deputies.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in August that marijuana reform legislation will advance in the session that began in September.
Sen. Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar, also of the MORENA party, said in April that legalizing cannabis could fill treasury coffers at a time when the economy is recovering from the pandemic.
As lawmakers work to advance the reform legislation, there’s been a more lighthearted push to focus attention on the issue by certain members and activists. That push has mostly involved planting and gifting marijuana.
In September, a top administration official was gifted a cannabis plant by senator on the Senate floor, and she said she’d be making it a part of her personal garden.
A different lawmaker gave the same official, Interior Ministry Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero, a marijuana joint on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies last year.
Cannabis made another appearance in the legislature in August, when Sen. Jesusa Rodríguez of the MORENA party decorated her desk with a marijuana plant.
Drug policy reform advocates have also been cultivating hundreds of marijuana plants in front of the Senate, putting pressure on legislators to make good on their pledge to advance legalization.
This story comes via a content sharing agreement with Marijuana Moment.