Mexico Legalizes Cannabis For Medical Use
On June 19, 2017, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto confirmed the legalization of medicinal cannabis. It’s pleasant to see that once on the anti-legalization side, the president has since altered his views. However, though this development is a step forward, it also has a controversial aspect. Before we can dive into the juice of this amazing new legalization law, let’s look back when it was first considered to be legalized.
How The Legalization of Cannabis Planted A Seed
The move toward the legalization started back in 2009. In that year, carrying a small amount of cannabis was decriminalized. The amount in question was really little. It was less than one-fifth of an ounce, the equivalent of three or four roll-your-own cigarettes. Also, if you get caught with cannabis three times, it would be mandatory to seek treatment. The treatment was free. Yet, it showed that cannabis use was seen as a health problem. The stigma, though scaled down, was still there.
But the decriminalization was a huge first step in the right direction. The process could have been started earlier but the president at that time, Felipe Calderón, waited longer than expected to approve the bill.
What really cleared the path to legalization was the historical decision of Mexico’s Supreme Court in 2015. The legal case was about four people cultivating their own cannabis. The court decided that it was unconstitutional to prohibit them from growing for their own consumption. Though the decision pertained to those four individuals, it meant the general relaxation of legal muscles. It also played a major role in informing the authorities about the public opinion.
The Congress didn’t fail to heed the cue. In December 2016, the upper chamber – the Senate of the Republic – showed overwhelming backing for the medical cannabis. They voted for the legalization of cannabis for medical and scientific use. Thus, the seed started to grow.
The Final Decision to Cannabis Legalization
The Chamber of Deputies – the lower house – moved next. They passed the bill with an incredible support in April of this year. According to Senator Cristina Diaz, the developments established the basis for the national cannabis industry. The senator’s words imply that there is a strong interest in developing the hitherto suppressed economic sector. The global cannabis industry is in its’ baby years, so it’s reasonable to look for a share in the piece of the cannabis pie. But there are several reasons to be less optimistic than the senator.
Once both chambers were done, the next major step was for the executive power to approve it. As expected, President Nieto signed the bill and now it’s in power. Even the Secretary of Health, José Narro Robles welcomed the action, which was an unimaginable thing to do only a decade ago.
Now the main task falls on the Health Ministry. The ministry has the authorization to create regulations around the medicinal use of pharmacological derivatives of cannabis. The Ministry’s first job is to study their medicinal and therapeutic effects. Then they will turn to the regulation side. This includes deciding the rules of the production. The shape of the expected Mexican cannabis industry will be formed there.
Mexico’s Bill Regulations On Legalized Medical Cannabis
As it is always the case with bureaucracy, laws, and love, there is an unexpected plot twist. The bill allows only products with maximum one percent of THC content. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is what makes cannabis what it is. It is responsible for the most of cannabis’ psychological effects. It is the main cannabis ingredient used in medicine, such as treating refractory nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. One percent significantly limits its effectiveness. Let’s hope it won’t be too hard on the patient’s.
To have an idea, if we compare with the THC content of cannabis in the US, it’s clear that one percent is extremely low. According to the University of Mississippi’s Potency Monitoring Project (UMPMC) quarterly report, in March 2009, the average THC content of the domestic samples was 3.36%. The non-domestic ones had 5.33%. Both far exceed the legal limit allowed by the new law in Mexico. Moreover, the researchers expected the figures to rise over time.
In the US market, cannabis with THC content of more than 30% can be found. And anything less than 2% or even more is usually looked down as hemp, just fiber.
It’s obvious that the legally allowed amount is extremely low. Therefore, I’m afraid that one percent rule in Mexico may not be effective in eliminating the black market and reducing crime rates. For the patients with serious issues, 1% may not be as helpful as expected. It would be ironic and sad to see people resorting to illegal ways to get cannabis when it is supposed to be legal. This means that it’s too early to be optimistic about the future.
The Benefits of Legalization
One benefit of the legalization is the creation of new jobs. There will be many new jobs to citizens in mexico who are in need which gives Mexico more opportunity where it didn’t have much before. Although new jobs are in the mix for the future citizens of Mexico, there won’t be an exporting cannabis goods from across the border. As the Health Ministry completes its task, it’s probable for them to view a small potential for exporting cannabis.
In addition, the US market is concentrated on higher THC percentage. On the other hand, the same cannot be said about the imports into Mexico. The country can become a great export market for the US-based companies in the future, especially in these early days. But once Mexico’s set’s up their plans for production of cannabis then and only then it can be viewed as a viable importation ally.
The first permit to a US company allowing cannabis-related import to Mexico was already granted in late 2016. Further, there is little competition in the local market. But once the market saturates as local production surges, the local market will be highly competitive.
Cannabis Will Thrive Regardless of Mexico’s Regulations
However, the one percent rule is not set in stone. It can be removed in the future. There is a long way ahead. We have come a long way since 2009. If the authorities remove the percentage cap, we will be expecting real growth in the cannabis industry as recreational will then come into play, other than the just medicinal cannabis.
Moreover, it’s too early to make predictions about the timing of future changes. Popular perceptions don’t change overnight. In Mexico, even today the medicinal use of cannabis is viewed with suspicion by a lot of people. We need to remember why it was banned in the first place.
The History of Why Cannabis Was Banned
Cannabis was banned completely in 1920. The legislators based their decision on the widespread belief that it was poisonous to health, although they failed to provide a single scientific proof. They were afraid that it would degenerate the nation. Fear, rather than the facts, played the major role. In those days, Mexico’s yellow press published sensational news, catering to the popular hysteria that cannabis caused madness and violence. No wonder even today, cannabis still remains somewhat a taboo.
The formation of this taboo was indebted to false ‘facts.’ The science of the day was incomparably behind what we know today. They didn’t know better. I want to remind you that in those days Einstein was seen as an eccentric person at best, a lunatic at worst. He won the Nobel Prize in 1921, not for his major work – the Theory of Relativity – on the ground that people thought it was too weird to be ‘scientific.’ He got the Nobel for his study on the photoelectric effect, which was far more digestible by the scientific community of the time. Therefore, the legalization of cannabis, anywhere on Earth, is also the victory of science over superstition, knowledge over ignorance.
Unfortunately, the prohibition of cannabis in 1920 generated violence. The cost was thousands of human lives. People lost their lives in the illogical war against cannabis. The 1% restriction can become the main obstacle in dealing with these problems.
Now We Celebrate The Legalization of Cannabis In Mexico
Overall, we can best learn the lessons of our past to keep cannabis legal worldwide including Mexico. The quest for full medicinal cannabis legalization hasn’t yet been achieved, because recreational cannabis use is still not allowed in the country. But we have reasons to celebrate the medicinal legalization of cannabis. As with the latest changes, the journey will be far more smoother for full on legalization of cannabis now than ever before.
- How Mexico Reached The Decision to Legalize Cannabis - June 22, 2017