On October 31, the Mexican Supreme Court issued its fourth and fifth consecutive rulings that cannabis prohibition is unconstitutional. The court found that “the effects that marijuana produce do not justify the absolute prohibition of its use.”
In Mexico, unlike in the U.S., five of the same rulings are needed to set a legal precedent.
Is Cannabis Now Legal in Mexico?
While it’s a landmark day for cannabis legalization in Mexico, these five rulings do not make cannabis legal in Mexico for everyone. However, it does mean that anyone who wants to cultivate or consume for their personal use can seek permission from the regulatory agency, Cofepris.
Zara Snapp, drug policy consultant and co-founder of the RIA Institution, says it will “possibly be a lengthy process for people to go through, but it means the cases wouldn’t need to go all the way to the Supreme Court. The lower court judges would need to rule following the same criteria.” That also means that only people with the means to hire a lawyer and take their case to court will likely be allowed to cultivate cannabis until legislators change the law.
What’s the Next Step for Legalization?
These rulings do not make adult use cannabis legal in Mexico because it’s not the Supreme Court’s job to write the law. They need lawmakers to cohere with the Supreme Court’s decision by removing cannabis prohibition from the General Health Law, and then by creating regulations for a cannabis market in Mexico.
Huffington Post Mexico reported that Congress has 90 days to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling and repeal the articles of the General Health Law that make cannabis illegal.
For cannabis to become legal for everyone in Mexico, legislators need to follow through and write the law as well as regulations, and then the president has to sign it. The current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has made it clear that he will not be signing any such laws. But Nieto will be replaced by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO, as he’s known in Mexico, on December 1.
AMLO has been supportive of cannabis legalization in Mexico, but he wasn’t the only one elected on July 1. Mexico also elected new Congressmen and Senators, who took office on September 1. In fact, AMLO’s political party, Morena, now controls both the Congress and the Senate. Snapp says that Morena legislators are already moving forward with initiatives to regulate cannabis in Mexico. She also says her organization has been working with the head of the Morena party in Congress, Mario Delgado, “who is a supporter” and has “spoken often about the need to regulate cannabis.”
“We look forward to working with him and writing the initiative,” Snapp says.
What about Medical cannabis in Mexico?
To complicate matters for patients, the Mexican regulatory agency, Cofepris, released “guidelines” for medical cannabis on October 30 that seem to be at odds with the fourth and fifth Supreme Court rulings that came less than 24 hours later. These guidelines only allow for the importation of cannabis products with 1 percent of THC or less; they don’t allow Mexicans to grow any plants at home, and it doesn’t allow for Mexican companies to begin cultivating and selling cannabis, because cultivation would be restricted to scientific research only.
“The patients are not in support of what was released,” says Snapp. “We believe that this is not a step forward. We do not believe that this follows the spirit of the law that is passed. We see it more as a way for certain companies to move forward with their import of products.”
These guidelines are not enough for medical cannabis patients in Mexico for many reasons, including the high cost of imported cannabis oil. Activists argue that growing your own medicine at home is the most accessible way for the average Mexican family to afford cannabis medicine, and so that right needs to be given to all.
“We’ve been working for the last six years to get to this point [five Supreme Court rulings] so it is a historic day, but my one concern is it doesn’t mean anyone can plant in their house and that’s what we really want,” explains Snapp. “We want anyone to be able to cultivate for their personal use or for small businesses to be able to have permission to sell their products…for people to have the access that’s required and not have bureaucratic papers or the need to hire a lawyer in order to so.”