Mexico has legalized medical cannabis. President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a measure this week that received overwhelming support in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies to create a narrow band of legal products with room for expansion. Mexico joins Canada, Colombia, Chile and a handful of other countries, mostly in Europe, with this humane and common sense decision.
Pena Nieto, once a staunch opponent of marijuana, has become a champion. The War on Drugs has done incredible harm to his country, and he has become all too familiar with how prohibition enriches and empowers the cartels that control swaths of Mexico.
“We, Mexicans, know all too well the range and the defects of prohibitionist and punitive policies, and of the so-called war on drugs that has prevailed for 40 years,” President Pena Nieto said in April. “Our country has suffered, as few have, the ill effects of organized crime tied to drug trafficking.”
Last year, Pena Nieto introduced a bill that would have decriminalized possession of up to an ounce (up from the current limit of 5 grams), but that bill didn’t have enough momentum to make it through Congress. When it came to medical cannabis, however, the consensus was overwhelming. The bill that Pena Nieto confirmed this week passed the Senate in December, 98-7, and the Chamber of Deputies in April, 347-7.
A statement from the Chamber of Deputies declared that “the ruling eliminates the prohibition and criminalization of acts related to the medicinal use of marijuana and its scientific research, and those relating to the production and distribution of the plant for these purposes.”
The Ministry of Health is now tasked with studying cannabis’ medicinal and therapeutic properties, and then coming up with regulations. Until then, only cannabis products with less than 1 percent THC can be legally sold. Hopefully, Mexican authorities will quickly realize that THC is a palliative for certain conditions, such as glaucoma, and that such a limited medical market won’t make a dent in cartel profits.
That said, it’s clear that Mexico is headed in the right direction, and that they are ready to pursue sensible cannabis policy.
“Fortunately, a new consensus is gradually emerging worldwide in favor of reforming drug policies,” said Pena Nieto in April. “A growing number of countries are strenuously combating criminals, but instead of criminalizing consumers, they offer them alternatives and opportunities.”
This shift cannot come soon enough. There were over 20,000 homicides in Mexico in 2016, and over 2,000 last January. Drug cartels do not sell exclusively in Mexico — much of their product ends up in the U.S. — nor do they only make money on drug sales, but there is also no denying that marijuana is a key component of their profit model.
The news out of Mexico is part of a larger trend: legal medical cannabis throughout the Americas. With Canada, over half the U.S. states and several South American countries already on board, medical marijuana is either legal or generally permitted across the two continents. One can imagine a future in which restrictions are lifted in the U.S. and other countries, allowing for cross-border sales. This would be a key step in creating a true cannabis economy on par with that of alcohol. There is still quite a way to go before that happens, but Mexico’s decision is a big step in the right direction.
TELL US, are you excited to see more and more countries accept the medical benefits of cannabis? What condition does medical cannabis help you to manage?