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Exclusive: Mexico one step closer to legalize recreational marijuana use

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Mexico City: Mexico lawmakers voted on Wednesday in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana use, thus, potentially making the land of the drug cartels one of the world’s largest regulated markets for the cannabis. Under current Mexican laws, it is illegal to carry more than five grams of marijuana.

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The bill, which still needs final approval by the upper house, is being described as a game-changer for Mexico, aimed at curbing drug-related violence that claims thousands of lives each year in the Latin American nation.

The landmark law change would make Mexico, home to nearly 13 crore people, third country in the world, including Uruguay and Canada, to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

“In theory, it will create the largest legal market in the world due to Mexico’s production capacity,” said Lisa Sanchez, director of Mexico United Against Crime, a non-governmental organization.

In Mexico, “marijuana grows in natural conditions without the energy investments that are made in Canada, for example,” she said.

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The lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, approved the bill by 316 votes to 129. And the legislature will now proceed to the upper house for review and voting.

The law will essentially authorise the use of marijuana for recreational purposes by persons of legal age as Mexico’s Supreme Court in its 2018 judgment had declared the prohibition on marijuana consumption unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, the bill was also approved by the upper house, the Senate, in November, but it will be sent back for another vote following changes by the lower chamber.

The bill was supported by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, stating that it can help the government deal with the country’s infamous drug cartels, which cause the deaths of thousands every year. Obrador’s Morena party and its allies in both chambers, and the legislation looks almost certain to be approved.

“The law would contribute to achieving peace,” Morena lawmaker Ruben Cayetano said.

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However, the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and conservative National Action Party (PAN) voted against the bill.

PRI legislator Mariana Rodriguez, however, voiced concern that legalization would increase “the rate of consumption and addiction.”

Conditions of using marijuana under proposed law:

-Users would be allowed to carry 28g, or around 28 cannabis cigarettes against current five grams (0.18 ounces) law, according to reports.

-Holding between 28 and 200g could invite a maximum fine of 10,754 pesos (about $ 512), and above 200g a prison sentence. Possessing more than 5 or 6 kilos can be punished with 15 years in prison.

-Recreational users will also be permitted to grow up to 6 cannabis plants at home for personal consumption. Though, if there is more than one user in the house, a maximum of 8 plants can be allowed. The plants cannot leave the house and a permit will be required to keep cannabis plants at home, which will have to be renewed every year.

-The law will also allow the creation of non-profit cannabis associations of up to 20 members, which under a licence can cultivate plants for recreational consumption. To obtain membership, applicants need to prove they have not been convicted for narco-trafficking or organised crime.

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-Alcohol consumption inside the association shall be prohibited.

-Smoking in front of minors, in schools, workplaces and in all those spaces where tobacco smoking is not allowed would remain prohibited.

-The law also bans passive smoking, meaning users would practically have to consume cannabis products at home or at cannabis associations.

-Licenced shops will be allowed to sell marijuana and its derivatives for recreational use. However, selling through vending machines, telephone, mail or the internet will be illegal, as would be propaganda campaigns promoting its use.

-Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture will also grant permits for growing and distributing industrial hemp, a variant of the cannabis plant used in textiles, paper, oils and fuels.

In 2020, Mexican authorities seized 244 tons of marijuana. While, more than 300,000 people have been murdered since the government deployed the army to fight the cartels in 2006.

Given to the situation, Lopez Obrador sees the legalization of some drugs as a way to improve security in the drug-crime land.

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