Against all the odds, the US could potentially beat Mexico in the race to legalise marijuana.
Mexico should have passed legislation on October 31 that would have decriminalised cannabis for recreational use.
However, some dithering from the government has seen lawmakers spectacularly overshoot a deadline set by the Supreme Court in 2018 to have the regulation in place – despite promises from the head of the leading MORENA party, Senator Ricardo Monreal, that cannabis would be legalised before the end of October.
Soon after the country completed a public consultation, Monreal pledged to get the legislation over the line.
“We’re thinking that we’ll bring the law out, approve it, at the end of October,” he said at the start of October.
“That’s the schedule we have.”
The 59-year-old has, however, been on the receiving end of a raft of criticism following the complete failure to meet the deadline. Confusion over the proposed legal reforms has now left the government in disarray on all sides.
Meanwhile, in the US, the drive towards full legalisation of marijuana at a Federal level is gathering pace.
Three weeks ago, the House Judiciary Committee-approved the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019. The committee vote was a staggering 24-10 in favour of advancing the bill which would remove cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.
The momentum is undoubtedly with the cannabis legalisation movement and even if the bill faces a stiff test in the Senate, where many Republicans and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell staunchly oppose weed, it’s hard to ignore the fact that almost all presidential candidates favour legalisation.
Given that the handbrake appears to be firmly stuck on Mexico’s marijuana machine, while the US runaway rollercoaster is at full speed, the reformation race could have an unlikely winner.
“Rewind the clock by two months and the current situation is almost unthinkable,” explains American political analyst Marco Vintner.
“At the start of October there was only one outcome here – that Mexico would legalise cannabis before the 31st, and that the US would probably only start talking seriously about Federal reform by the end of next year with a new president.
“Yet here we are, faced with a quite staggering outcome – in fact I’m still in a state of disbelief over Mexico’s abject failure to execute the wishes of the Supreme Court.”
The curious legislative twist in both nations will do nothing for the cross-border relations which have been strained for many years. If anything, says Vintner, it will only fuel historic rivalry.
“At the minute, we have two nations which have not yet fully legalised cannabis, but if you take history into account this may actually be a positive for the industry,” he explained.
“There’s a real competition between the US and Mexico, so you can only imagine what is being said in the corridors of power as each country vies to be the one to green light marijuana.
“And, at the minute, I’d say the money is on the US to triumph in that race.”