Deadline looms for Mexico cannabis legislation

THE farcical fallout of Mexico’s repeated inability to agree on legislation over its marijuana laws has seen the country’s lawmakers facing just two months to settle disputes before its latest deadline.

The country’s leaders have spent almost two years toing-and-froing as they dither over setting the legalisation of cannabis into Mexico’s constitution.

Senators scrapped criminal laws over cannabis cultivation and use in 2018, paving the way for legalisation. Regulation of any kind has been in limbo since.

It is almost a year to the day that Senator Ricardo Monreal – leader of the ruling MORENA party – confirmed marijuana would be legalised by the end of October 2019.

At the time, Monreal said the public consultation over the prospect of Mexican marijuana legalisation had ended, with the majority of the public heavily in favour of making the cultivation and use of cannabis legal.

He added the government would quickly finalise a reform bill that would come into force “without delay”.

“We’re thinking that we’ll bring the law out, approve it, at the end of October,” he stressed at the time. “That’s the schedule we have.”

Since then, however, the Senate has struggled to agree on any meaningful way forward, and gave itself a new deadline of December 15 2020, under the orders of the same Supreme Court that, two years ago, labelled a cannabis ban as unconstitutional.

Unfortunately, according to critics of the government, the hesitant decision making has created a whole new raft of problems. Chiefly, the space and time for big businesses to line up monopolies of the production, processing and sale of cannabis products.

The financial prospects for Mexican industrialists are huge – if the pot policies are settled by December, then Mexico will instantly become the world’s largest cannabis market.

But the moral issues remain complex. There are some 200,000 families involved in the independent, small-scale production of marijuana, and questions are being asked about how they can be protected from industry giants.

Speaking in the Los Angeles Times, cannabis business consultant Avis Bulbulyan, fears the first round of legislation will favour the large conglomerates rather than independents.

“You have a broad spectrum of people who want to be involved,” he said.

“The question becomes: ‘Who gets to profit off this?’”

One fear is that outside influence from the US and Canada has helped to shape some of the new legislation, and the role of those countries comes from a corporate direction.

Alejandro Madrazo of Mexico’s Center for Economic Thinking suggested the balance of power was heavily disproportionate.

“It’s basically revitalising prohibition for the poor but carving out a legal market for big businesses,” he said.

Ricardo Monreal, on the other hand, denies the claims. Instead, he maintains that the Senate still holds the keys to the cannabis chest.

“There has been a lot of interference,” he said.

“Transnational companies have wanted to influence our decisions, but we make the final decision.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Mexico says the Senate needs to deliver an answer by December 15. Whether it will or not, is still a matter of opinion throughout the country’s 127 million population.

Political observers, though, are suggesting they shouldn’t hold their breath.