Mexico to implement 3-year-old medical cannabis law as full legalization delayed

Mexican authorities plan to finalize medical cannabis regulations in the next two months, the Secretariat of Health of the country said in a news release.

The General Health Law of Mexico, amended in mid-2017, authorized cannabis for medical use – including products high in THC.

However, that amendment did not create any specific rules or regulations to facilitate a functioning market.

Instead, it mandated the Health Secretariat to issue regulations within 180 days.

Three years later, Mexico is one of several nations that is credited for having legalized medical cannabis, but the country effectively has no domestic market because of a lack of regulations.

Experts say it is uncertain whether Mexican authorities will create the necessary rules for a functional market within the promised two-month window.

It is not the first time authorities have attempted to implement the 2017 law.

Toward the end of 2018, the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) – an organ of the Secretariat of Health – issued guidelines and granted the first product authorizations.

But that did not last long.

In early 2019, the guidelines were revoked because new authorities concluded that the rules contravened the 2017 law they intended to regulate, as well as several other laws.

That largely paralyzed any short-lived business opportunities.

Later in 2019, a Supreme Court ruling mandated the Health Secretariat to regulate the 2017 law amendment within 180 working days by creating rules for the medical use of cannabis.

In the communication issued last week, the Secretariat of Health said that because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the “approximate” deadline to create those regulations ends Sept. 9, 2020.

It is unknown what the forthcoming regulations will look like exactly, but what is known is they can address only medical cannabis, which was the subject of the 2017 law.

A bill to fully legalize cannabis, including for recreational use, has been delayed multiple times.

The current expected deadline for the approval of that bill is Dec. 15, 2020.

Also uncertain is how any new medical regulations approved before Sept. 9 would function alongside a new more comprehensive law expected by December.

Several cannabis companies issued news releases in recent years suggesting they are well positioned to capitalize on what, one day, could be one of the largest marijuana markets in the world.

However, with no regulatory framework in place to use for market calculations, such estimates remain largely make believe.

Many analysts and companies often fail to communicate to investors that:

  • Regulatory processes often take years to be drafted and implemented,.
  • Functional, developed cannabis markets are hard to find outside North America – sometimes even years after legalization takes place.

Alfredo Pascual can be reached at