Explained: Mexico’s landmark move to legalise marijuana and possible impact on US
- Mexican president has backed the bill, saying it would help the government curb drug-related violence which claims thousands of lives every year.
Mexico’s lower house on Wednesday passed landmark legislation that would decriminalise the use of cannabis for recreational purposes. The legislation will now go to the Senate for a review and final vote, before President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, signs the bill into law, which would potentially make Mexico one of the biggest legal marijuana markets in the world.
Mexico’s Supreme Court has set a April 30 deadline for lawmakers to pass the bill after the apex court declared the prohibition unconstitutional. López Obrador has also backed the bill, saying it would help the government curb drug-related violence which claims thousands of lives every year. Mexico is now on the verge of becoming the third country in the world, after Canada and Uruguay, to legalise cannabis nationwide for recreational use.
The bill is aimed at establishing a system of licenses required for the entire chain of production, distribution, transformation and sales. Individuals will also be allowed to grow cannabis plant for personal use, with not more than six plants per individual and a maximum of eight in a single household.
According to the bill in its current form, adults will be fined if they are caught with more than one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana. The bill also provides for a jail term for adults if they are caught with more than 12 pounds (5.6 kilogrammes) of marijuana.
Lisa Sanchez, director of Mexico United Against Crime, a non-governmental organisation that has been pushing marijuana legalisation, told news agency AFP that “in theory, it will create the largest legal market in the world due to Mexico's production capacity.” Sanchez said that marijuana grows in Mexico in “natural conditions without the energy investments that are made in Canada.”
The United States is likely to get sandwiched between potentially the two biggest legal marijuana markets if the bill becomes law. According to a Politico report, the move could even pressure US President Joe Biden, who doesn’t support legalising weed, to embrace marijuana. Although Biden doesn’t support full legalisation, he is in favour of ending criminal penalties and expanding medical research.
The US House, controlled by Democrats, passed legislation in December 2020 that would end federal penalties for cannabis possession. However, the White House is yet to comment on whether Mexico’s move would change Biden’s stance on the use of marijuana for recreational purpose.