Definitive guide to understanding the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Mexico


Mexico has taken another step on the road to being the third country in the world, along with Uruguay and Canada, to legalize the personal recreational use of marijuana.

After the Senate approved a proposal on responsible adult use of cannabis on November 19, this March 10 the Chamber of Deputies approved the decriminalization and regulation of recreational use bill – called “adult consumption” – of marijuana in Mexico.

Some of the key points of this bill, which would reform articles of the Federal Penal Code and the General Health Law, are that the General Law for the Regulation of Cannabis will be approved, in addition to the creation of the Mexican Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IMRCC).

It will also allow people over 18 years of age to use marijuana recreationally if it is not done in front of a minor or any other person unable to express their free and informed consent. Nor can it be used in public space if a person of legal age has not given their consent, mostly leaving the usage only legal in private homes where minors are not present.

The sale of cannabis and its derivatives for adult use in Mexico will be possible, although this must be done in establishments authorized by the IMRCC. Regarding the sowing, cultivation, harvest, use, and preparation of cannabis plants, a person living alone can have up to six plants, while if there are two consumers in the same household, the number is increased to eight plants per household.

For the cultivation, transformation, commercialization, export, or import, the bill establishes that licenses must be issued, although a person may have more than one type of license, and none of them implies any activity with the medicinal use of cannabis.

If a person wishes to consume in their home, they must carry out the necessary remodeling, in order that the smoke is not inhaled by people other than consumers. Regarding possession, a person may only have less than 28 grams of marijuana.

In case you have more than 28 grams of marijuana in your possession, you could be fined from 5,000 to 10,500 pesos. If the person has more than 200 grams, they could face six years in prison.

Recreational cannabis consumption clubs may be created with a minimum of two members and a maximum of 20, all of whom are of legal age. These places must be identified as a business, but they will not be able to promote their product. Upon seeding, these sites will be able to plant up to four plants per member.

Another way to access the product will be through companies that have a production regulated and authorized by the Institute. In this case, the establishments will be able to sell specific doses of marijuana.

The regulation also provides a place for research on medical, pharmaceutical, or palliative uses of the cannabis plant by universities, specialized centers, and other institutions.

Do not rush out to start planting your marijuana plants just yet. The bill was modified and needs to return to the senate for a final vote on the modifications and then needs to be signed into law by the President of Mexico.

What is illegal for the recreational use of marijuana?

People under 18 years of age will not have access to adult cannabis, those who provide marijuana to a minor could face fines and criminal prosecution. Nor will minors be allowed to be employed in any activity related to the planting, cultivation, planting, harvesting, trade, production, distribution, supply, sale, and consumption of cannabis.

Nor may marijuana be consumed in work areas, whether public or private; as well as commercial establishments with public access, schools, government facilities, or any place where the use of tobacco is prohibited.

Other places where psychoactive cannabis cannot be consumed will be points of “mass gathering where people under 18 years of age can access”, such as shopping centers, parks, amusement parks, stadiums, sports facilities, even when they are open spaces, or where people could be exposed to the harmful effects of “secondhand smoke.”

It will be illegal to provide free cannabis, its derivatives and products made from marijuana. Another of the prohibitions established by the ruling is not operating any vehicle, drive or operate equipment, or machinery that may cause danger under the effects of THC. Violators can be fined.

In clubs and establishments selling marijuana, the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages are prohibited, and the license granted by IMRCC must be displayed. Likewise, it must be ensured that the people who enter these places are of legal age and a sign informing about the prohibition of marketing, selling, distributing, and supplying to persons under 18 years of age.

Failure to comply with the provisions of the legislation will be sanctioned with a fine, which will be doubled in the event of a second offense. If it is breached for the third time, the punishment will be the revocation of the permit .

It will be prohibited to market products that mix marijuana with other substances such as tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, energy drinks, or any other that is considered, or not, psychotropic.

Controversies surrounding cannabis regulation

Although this opinion may represent an opportunity to take a relevant step on the issue, some groups have alerted the population that it is “worrisome” and elements of the legislation that for the moment they consider deficient, especially in terms of social justice, should be addressed.

Tania Ramírez, director of the Drug Policy program of Mexico United Against Delinquency (MUCD), has denounced that although the amounts of cannabis that a person can possess were modified, this plant will still remain on the list of prohibited substances.

Likewise, she has indicated that crimes will persist in the Federal Criminal Code despite the fact that there will be a regulated market, which, at least in theory, will allow self-cultivation, cannabis clubs, and retail sales. In this sense, the most relevant contradiction from his point of view is that regulation without decriminalization is being proposed, since the crime of simple possession will be maintained.

“If before they extorted five grams from you, now they can extort 28 grams from you. It is necessary to modify this criminal regime, eliminating the crime of simple possession, it is a conduct that should not be considered a crime and the parameters would have to be changed to prosecute the transport of small quantities”.

Julio Salazar, a lawyer for the same civil organization, also pointed out that there is “overregulation” for people who want to consume inside their homes since they must make modifications to their homes so as not to disturb other neighbors.

“The fact that there is the possibility of authorities making home visits to review the place opens the door to extortion , abuse of authority, even when it is an activity for the legitimate development of their personality”, said the layer, who also condemned these conditions as excessive and that privilege certain sectors of the population.

On the other hand, Erick Ponce, director of the Grupo Promotor de la Industria de Cannabis (GPIC), said in an interview that there will be no criminalization of consumers if the industry assumes its role responsibly and educates the population about the legality and quality of the plant, but also about their rights.

Regarding the economic impact that this regulation could generate, positions are also found. On the one hand, Salazar pointed out that “far from establishing the conditions for the creation of a national market, it is establishing conditions for foreign companies to enter the market with an advantage.”

This argument is based on the fact that if the opinion is approved as it was sent to the Chamber of Deputies, the first companies to join will be those that have all the infrastructure required by law, such as mechanisms for genetic traceability of seeds and testing, which are complex, expensive and currently only available to foreign companies.

In addition, the legislation indicates that the seeds to be used must be of legal origin, that is, they have to be imported from registered banks and although there are seeds in Mexico, none of them are registered and there are still no banks to carry out this process.

In contrast, the perspective from the GPIC is encouraging, since they project that the cannabis industry, in the year 2025, will add $10 billion USD to Mexico’s economy, based on criteria such as tax collection and the creation of new jobs in dispensaries, production chains, and sales, as well as sub-industries, including consulting, education, analytical laboratories, support, and health.

He also highlighted that this legislation will represent a benefit for the cultivation, since it will discourage the black market, in addition to the fact that “a special and priority support is considered for marginalized communities, to give them advice and counseling regarding the procedures and that they have access to the investment part”.

However, the opinion does not include the last elements mentioned by Ponce. Rather, the wording states the following: “Indigenous peoples and communities and lower-income communities, in a situation of marginalization or that due to their characteristics or because they have been affected by the prohibitive system, should have priority attention “.

The advantage that these communities will have will be related to the possibility of being holders of more than one license to cultivate, transform or commercialize the cannabis plant. “The above, as an affirmative action to compensate the damages caused by the prohibition”, the document states.

Despite the fact that marginalized populations will have priority access to licenses for these activities, their mere existence is something that organizations have also demanded to eliminate since economic, technical, and legal obstacles will represent a reason for these communities to move away from the possibility to grow, transform or commercialize cannabis.

“The requirements are too expensive and excessive. So, those who will be able to afford them will be companies and despite the priority to poor communities, the truth is that if they are not given support and barriers to entry to the market are removed, they will not be able to access it,” Salazar explained.

For Salazar, these types of conditions will not allow the illegal cannabis market to end, as it will create a luxury market and both legal and illegal markets will coexist.

The GPIC considered that licenses should be maintained, as they will help control and regulate activities, in addition to preventing certain communities from being the object of extortion by organized crime groups.

On the other hand, this Group expressed its concern regarding the taxes that could be imposed on producers derived from cannabis. Ponce mentioned that they are working on a proposal for the 2021 Economic Package, in order for this to be gradual, “it begins with a low tax through the IEPS and there may be a larger adoption so that we can be competitive against the black market ”.

Senator Emilio Álvarez Icaza told the newspaper El Economista that he is struck by the fact that the budget for next year does not include the creation of the Mexican Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis.

Regarding research for the medicinal use of cannabis, the opinion remained unchanged. Universities, institutions, or specialized centers will be allowed to carry out studies and analyze what benefits some type of plant may represent, although such investigations must be supervised by the Federal Commission for the Protection of Sanitary Risks (Cofepris).

Dr. Omar Ortega Carrasco, head of the Pharmacology Department of the UNAM Faculty of Medicine, accepted that the pharmaceutical industry in the country faces unfavorable competition with the international market.

“Encouraging national research and development is something that is on a pending agenda. There should be help for the national industry so that it can compete with the transnational monsters, “he said.


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