Mexico’s previous cannabis prohibition stemmed the rise of cartels, violence, and a waning economy. Just recently, however, Mexico has taken a proactive stance against criminal networks engaged in illegal cannabis cultivation and sale. Recent Supreme Court rulings and legislative action show a promising future for cannabis legalization in Mexico in the near future.
Cannabis Prohibition In Mexico
Mexico has played an important role in the development of marijuana use in the United States. Ever since the Spanish introduced cannabis (hemp) to Mexico in the 16th century, Mexicans of all classes have used “marihuana” for therapeutic and recreational reasons. Mexico would officially ban the production, sale, and use of cannabis in 1920. Exports were banned in 1927. It wasn’t until 1940 that Mexican president, Lázaro Cárdenas, legalized all drugs including cannabis, heroin, morphine, cocaine, and more.
Essentially, possession of small amounts of a drug was decriminalized. Those arrested for drug crimes previously were sent to addiction clinics. State-run dispensaries sold small doses under medical supervision. Their cheap prices undersold dealers reducing black market sales. Unfortunately, an export embargo on morphine and cocaine by the U.S. pressured Mexico to reverse its decision just six months later.
Decriminalization and Legalization
Mexico’s position on cannabis softened in 2009 after it decriminalized possession of up to 5 grams of cannabis and other drugs. Instead of locking up individuals caught with drugs, the law stated that they should be sent to drug rehabilitation clinics. A 2015 Supreme Court ruling allowed 8-year-old Graciela Elizalde to use CBD oil for her severe form of epilepsy.
On June 19th, 2017, President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a bill that allowed medical cannabis use. Although products could only contain less than 1% THC, it marked a momentous occasion. Finally, a 2018 Supreme Court ruling ruled for the fifth time that cannabis prohibition was unconstitutional. After 5 times, a ruling set precedent across all Mexican courts. The ruling stated that legislators must draft a bill legalizing cannabis within 90 days.
Mexico is Poised to Legalize Cannabis
After the November 2018 election, the new left-leaning National Regeneration Movement party drafted a bill to Congress to end prohibition and begin legalization. Soon-to-be Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero presented a plant that allows people over the age of 18 to buy and use cannabis, cannabis cultivation, and home cultivation of up to 20 plants. The move would make Mexico the third country to legalize recreational marijuana right after Uruguay and Canada.
Mexico has come a long way since its war on drugs starting in 2006 that unwittingly escalated violence across the country by destabilizing cartels. Canadian investors like Aurora Cannabis and Khiron Life Sciences Corp are already lining up to stake their claim in the eventual recreational market. Even Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk released guidelines on medical cannabis use.
While the “Morena” party ran hard against crime and corruption, experts believe that marijuana legalization won’t curtail the cartels, but it’s a start. Mexico is taking notes from its 1940 legalization of all drugs providing modern solutions for long-standing problems. Legalization could bring new jobs and save police resources to a country ravaged by violence.