Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto signed into law a decree legalizing medical marijuana across the country on June 19th, 2017, and the news has the weed world grappling with what this could ultimately mean.
Each year, more and more US states legalize medical or recreational marijuana. Combined with Canada’s determination to have laws in place for full adult legalization by July 2018, Mexico is positioned geographically to one of the largest cannabis (or hemp) markets in the world. An opportunity which, until recently, was entirely a criminal enterprise. Mexico, by population, is more than three times that of Canada. In the US, the common theme of states who have passed medical marijuana laws sees roughly between 1%-3% of the total population register within the program.
On the low end, this could represent 1.27 million Mexican citizens. On the high end, 3.81 million. Either of these conservative numbers, however, represent an economic blow on the home front of some of Mexico’s cartel and drug smuggling operators.
The passage of medical marijuana laws in Mexico, then, is news to the weed industry for a number of reasons. These include:
- Cannabis has been shown to have several medical benefits and global governments are noticing. By giving the Mexican people the right to use medical marijuana, the leaders acknowledge the failure of the cannabis policy thus far
- In US states where marijuana has been legalized for medical or adult use, billions in combined revenues have been stripped from black market dealers, suppliers, and the potential violence therein each year
- Due to proximity to the US, country-wide medical or recreational legalization in Mexico and Canada – two of America’s largest trade partners – could further pressure the business and research investment to make marijuana legalization look less harmful to the US federal government
- Allow marijuana farmers to possibly earn money legally (news to weed growers everywhere).
Of course, many others benefit to both society and any individual who enrolls in the program await the coming days. At this time, not much is known regarding the program or what form it will ultimately take. A six-month deadline has been penned for when the program is to be fully implemented.
Additionally, it is possible not all social effects will be positive. If marijuana becomes an open and legally traded crop, the price could plummet. This would mean little profit, and high transportation costs – not likely a worthy investment of the continued criminal activity of Mexico’s cartels. Such a phenomenal weed news story has already been reported on by outlets such as The Washington Post and Vice News. Will medical marijuana legalization mean cartels push into gang protections, extortion, kidnapping, human trafficking, or even the export of larger volumes of purer, harder drugs? It has been shown by the Denver Post that a large part of the opiate epidemic sweeping the US currently is being funneled through similar channels as those used in marijuana trafficking.
Could medical marijuana legalization in Mexico, instead, be a show of industry force as the world reels with the idea marijuana may not be so bad after all? Could legalization success in the US be serving as proof of social pressure for change? Could the pressure from Mexico and Canada provide enough business incentive to excite further research with the goal of changing US federal law?
Who knows. Instead, let’s peek into the changes the newly signed law requires be made and the brief regulatory suggestions of how the country get there.
Changes and Amendments to the Health Laws and Legal Code of Mexico
A number of additions and amendments have been made under the new decree, which makes Mexico’s medical marijuana industry a weed news story worth paying attention to. Medical legalization across Mexico represents a viable way to treat those who are suffering while forcing black market marijuana operations into further economic constraints. Some of the changes under the new law include:
Requiring the Ministry of Health to determine fair regulatory and operational practice, oversight and research thereof for the medical marijuana industry
“The Ministry of Health shall design and implement public policies regulating the medicinal use of pharmacological derivatives of cannabis sativa, indica and cannabis or marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinol, its isomers and stereochemical variants, as well as How to regulate the research and national production of them.
What it means
The Ministry of Health – the equivalent of the Department of Health in the US – is expected to create the policy and regulation governing marijuana. From sales, cultivation, research, and enforcement, the Ministry of Health is expected to deliver a thorough program which examines all the medicinal properties of cannabis.
The Decree also states:
“The Health Secretariat shall have 180 days from the entry into force of this Decree to harmonize the regulations and regulations in the therapeutic use of Tetrahydrocannabinol”. The program is not limited to THC and includes several other cannabinoids and cannabis-specific compounds.
Adjusting the Federal legal code to allow the marijuana possession and use for justified medical purposes
“The planting, cultivation or harvesting of marijuana plants shall not be punishable when these activities are carried out for medical and scientific purposes in the terms and conditions of the authorization issued for that purpose by the Federal Executive.”
What it means
No longer will Mexico penalize all residents who get caught with marijuana. Rather than shutting down entirely the illegal marijuana farmers located across the country, this move seems to give them an easy pathway to legally cultivating their crop.
Redirect the Ministry of Health to Increase Drug Education, Prevention, and Awareness Programs
“…the Ministry of Health will reinforce the programs and actions referred to in Chapter IV, Title Eleven of the General Health Law, with emphasis on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, social reintegration and control of the consumption of cannabis sativa, indica and American or marijuana and its derivatives, by children and adolescents, as well as the treatment of people with addiction to such narcotics. The General Health Council, based on the results of the national investigation, should know the therapeutic or medicinal value that leads to the of drugs derived from cannabis sativa, Indica and Americana or marijuana and its derivatives, to ensure the health of patients.”
What it means
For the industry, news of Mexico’s medical marijuana program comes with a bit of unknown. It is expected to be the largest medical marijuana market in Central America by population and, as a result, the potential spotlight on the global stage is being addressed proactively. Mexico’s leaders, by way of this legal clause, want further resources dedicated to examining the public health, social, and youth welfare impacts of the medical marijuana industry across the country. The General Health Council would be responsible for investigating the value of marijuana’s medicinal properties and evaluating ‘drugs’ or other products made from marijuana for their effectiveness and safety. “Drugs” would likely include extractions like wax or shatter, but may include isolated cannabinoids such as CBD or CBN in capsule or oil form.
Mexico’s medical marijuana program is one of the biggest global changes to happen to the marijuana industry. This, of course, comes with reprieves. The legislation, as passed, only legalizes marijuana with THC concentrations – the cannabinoid inspiring the highly sought after by recreational users – of 1% or less.
At this time, it is unclear which ailments would be covered or where dispensaries would be located, how they would be licensed, or even hours of operational guidelines.