Three Senate commissions in Mexico acting together passed legislation on Wednesday to legalize all forms of cannabis, bringing the Latin American country one step closer to launching the world’s largest adult-use program by population.
The bill now goes to the full Senate and, once approved there, the lower legislative chamber.
The measure might well be revised along the way, but a final approval is expected as the ruling party has the necessary majorities.
Mexican lawmakers face an April 30 deadline to legalize cannabis, according to a Supreme Court decision. In addition to recreational marijuana, the bill would legalize cannabis for medical and industrial hemp use.
An adult-use market in Mexico – with roughly 130 million people – would be much larger than existing programs in Canada and Uruguay, which both have smaller populations.
Alfredo Alvarez, a business partner of Mexican-based Canncura, a company specializing in cannabis research and technology, told Marijuana Business Daily that the vote represented a “historic” day.
However, he added, the news was “bittersweet” because the bill could’ve been much better from an industry standpoint.
For instance, he contended the bill “overregulates licenses, limiting too much vertical and horizontal integration” and “maintains a punitive approach toward consumers.”
The commissions of justice, health and legislative studies approved the legalization bill with 26 votes in favor, seven against and eight abstentions after a livestreamed, almost two-hour debate between legislators aligned with the government versus other lawmakers opposed to full legalization.
The bill proposes legalizing possession of marijuana of up to 28 grams and decriminalized up to 200 grams, as well as authorizing home growing with certain limits.
A cannabis agency would be created to regulate commercial opportunities and issue licenses.
Restrictions on foreign investment and vertical and horizontal integration are included in the bill with the intention that domestic, disadvantaged communities would have a priority to reap the benefits of legalization.
Despite expectations that the bill will be approved with the ample legislative majorities, a recent sign of concern was that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said last week that he supports only medical cannabis use.
The issue of the president’s opposition to the recreational cannabis part of the law was raised during the commission debate by legislators who voted against the bill.
Lawmakers in favor of the bill, who represent the same political party as the president, replied that the legislative branch is an independent power.
Another issue raised by opposition legislators was that legalizing personal production would be enough to comply with the Supreme Court ruling and, thus, there is no need create a commercial market.