Mexico is poised to become the third country in the world to legalize cannabis, after Uruguay and Canada. With a population of nearly 130 million, it will represent the biggest market of the three by far. Mexico also has an ideal climate for cannabis cultivation — and a centuries-long tradition of it. Inevitably, international investors are waiting eagerly for legalization to finally take effect.
It’s a grim, irony, however, that even amid preparations for legalization, the criminal narco-economy continues to spawn nightmarish violence — with recent bloody episodes starting to look like an actual war, the security forces out-gunned by the cartels. Crafting a legalization model that can effectively tackle this reality will be a challenge.
Congress Gets a Six-Month Extension
In October 2018, the same month that legalization took effect in Canada, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued a binding decision that cannabis prohibition is unconstitutional on individual liberties grounds and ordered the country’s Congress to amend the law. The ruling imposed a 90-day deadline for Congress to act. But it passed without action. This August, the Supreme Court reset the clock, imposing a new 90-day deadline — which was, symbolically, to run out on Oct. 31, one-year anniversary of the high court’s historic decision. Mexican lawmakers in September at last introduced a legalization bill.
But they deadlocked on the details, and just days ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline, the Senate appealed to the Supreme Court to reset the clock again. Julio Menchaca, head of the Senate Health Commission, appealed for “a small extension… to get the law right,” according to Heraldo de Mexico.
It turned out to not be so small. This time, the Supreme Court granted a six-month extension. Lawmakers will now have until April 30 to legalize, Mexico News Daily reports.
The Mexican Cannabis Institute, a new government agency to oversee the legal market, is now expected to be operational by Jan. 1, 2021. And there is much contention as to what that market will look like.
Ricardo Monreal, leader of the ruling center-left Morena party in the Senate, said upon the extension that the legislative process will proceed with caution “because we want to do things well.” Mario Delgado, the Morena leader in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies, is calling for the creation of a state-owned company to control sales in a closely regulated market.
But there are more free-market voices, including within the ruling party. Morena’s Sen. Julio Menchaca predicted in October (before the deadline