It’s almost here, and it’s going to be a huge lift for the country’s economy which has been suffering from COVID-19’s effects. It’s happening in Mexico, where lawmakers have just approved a bill to legalize recreational cannabis. The vote in the Chamber of Deputies, Mexico’s lower house, was 316 to 129, coming three years after the county legalized medical cannabis and two years after the Mexican Supreme Court ruled the country’s ban on recreational cannabis to be unconstitutional.
The next step is the Mexican Senate, where the bill is expected to sail through without any issues. And Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel Lôpez Obrador has already signaled his support for the legislation. Mexico has more than 120 million people, which will make it the largest legal cannabis market by population.
As currently written, the legislation allows adults both to consume cannabis and to, with a permit, grow cannabis plants at home. It will also grant cultivation and sales licenses for cannabis producers — ranging from small farmers to large commercial growers.
So what will this mean for a country that is still being ravaged by a drug war? Right now the economic benefits appear foremost. It will certainly be a boon for large producers who will be able to obtain “integral licenses” that allow management of the entire seed-to-sale supply chain. And existing Mexican medical cannabis companies are eagerly awaiting opportunities to expand their operations. But outside of such entrepreneurs, there are questions who else may benefit.
Pro-cannabis advocates wanted to see specific social equity provisions for licensing that would favor Mexico’s poorest farmers —who are now on the lowest rung of the drug chain — and other vulnerable groups. But as of now, the legislation does not carve out such assistance. Nor may the bill do that much to lessen drug war violence, even though Lôpez‑Obrador considers the legislation important for the country’s security. With individual state legalization already here in the U.S., the cartels have been focusing less on cannabis trafficking and more on such profitable drugs as fentanyl and methamphetamines. This is why some activists have taken to calling it a “law for the rich.”
However things progress, it is clear that passage will be highly significant for the U.S. It will mean legalization has arrived in the countries both south and north of our borders, and add to the movement for legalization across all of North America.