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Mexico Marijuana Laws & Policy

After more than a year of allowing patients with prescriptions to import cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil, Mexican lawmakers approved legislation that legalized the use of low-THC marijuana for medical purposes. While possession of a limited amount of cannabis has been decriminalized in Mexico, it is still illegal to use, possess, cultivate, transport and sell marijuana. Recent proposals from the nation’s president, however, indicate the country could be on the verge of further relaxing its laws.

Current Legislation

It is not legal to possess, sell, transport or cultivate cannabis in Mexico. However, on August 21, 2009, Mexico decriminalized “personal use” possession of small quantities of marijuana. Under the country’s health code, Mexican law allows for possess of up to 5 grams of marijuana, which is deemed to be intended for personal use. Individuals caught with cannabis amounts under the personal-use limit of 5 grams are encouraged to seek treatment. Treatment is mandatory for those who are caught a third time.

Penalties of possessing more than 5 grams and up to 5,000 grams of cannabis include 10 months to 3 years in prison and a fine. Anyone who supplies cannabis to another, even if the transaction is free and if the amount supplied falls within the allowed “personal use” amount, is subject to 4 to 8 years in prison and a fine.

In January 2016, the Mexican Government began hosting a series of national, public debates, scheduled to continue through February 2016, about whether or not marijuana should be legalized in the country. The public was able to share their own voice about marijuana policy reform opposite ’s condemnation of marijuana. In April 2016, President Enrique Peña Nieto, previously a strong opponent of marijuana legalization, proposed further relaxing marijuana laws by raising the amount of marijuana users can legally carry from 5 grams to 28 grams. With Mexico plagued by deadly drug cartel violence, President Peña Nieto believes his proposal would help curtail cartels by offering alternatives and opportunities to consumers. The Mexican Senate approved the bill in June 2016, but will have to vote again in September after legislators made edits to the bill.

Outside of the debates and President Peña Nieto bill, in a historic move, Mexico legalized all non-psychotropic cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), for medical use. To be clear, this excludes THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana that gets you high. Families within Mexico can now import CBD hemp oil into the country with a valid doctor prescription and permit from COFEPRIS.

Mexican law still prohibits the cultivation of industrial hemp. However, hemp can be imported and is used to make a variety of products.

Medical Marijuana Laws

The Mexican Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation on April 28, 2017 that legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The new law makes it legal to buy, sell, import and export cannabis products containing concentrations of 1 percent THC or less.

Prior to the passing of the medical marijuana law, the Mexican government was allowing patients with a prescription to legally import and use cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil. The government first gave permission for an 8 year old girl, Grace Elizalde, with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, to legally import and use CBD hemp oil in September 2015. After the Elizalde family were allowed to import CBD hemp oil, they set up the Por Grace Por Todos Foundation (For Grace, For Everybody) to give other families facing similar situations in Mexico a platform to fight for their rights as well.

On February 1, 2016, the Mexican equivalent of the FDA, COFEPRIS, issued two additional authorization permits for the import of CBD hemp oil products into the country. Both permits went to two young girls, Alina and Maria Paula, suffering from epilepsy to import Real Scientific Hemp Oil-X™ (RSHO-X™).

In authorizing these two permits, COFEPRIS also announced that they would allow other people and families in Mexico to import RSHO-X™ with a written prescription from their doctor and permit from COFEPRIS. In this way, almost any health indication is allowable wherein a doctor deems CBD hemp oil as a viable option for treatment.

While personal use of cannabis has been decriminalized in Mexico, it is still illegal to use, possess, cultivate, transport and sell.

Mexico’s Cannabis Legalization Addresses Several National Woes, While Creating Opportunity

Free Book Preview Cannabis Capital

After several extended deadline extensions, Mexican lawmakers seem on course to legalize adult-use cannabis in the coming weeks.

The most recent indication comes from MORENA Senate majority leader Ricardo Monreal, who says the bill would pass by the end of October and before the Dec. 15 deadline.

Projections expect Mexico to be the most lucrative legalized market, bolstering the nation’s economy.

Passing adult-use legislation is also expected to diminish the cartels’ long-running, lucrative narcotics arm. That’s just one of many benefits Mexico hopes to gain from expanding cannabis access.

Adult-Use Cannabis Market Expectations For Mexico

“We’ve been waiting since 2017 for the Mexican government to pass legislation on medical cannabis,” said Raul Elizalde, co-CEO of Medical Marijuana Inc. subsidiary HempMeds.

Elizalde, who consults with lawmakers in the country, said marijuana is just one component of the market’s potential.

“Most conversations until recently have been focused on adult-use cannabis legislation, but there is also great opportunity to regulate industrial hemp,” he said. “We hope that after having a regulation, the CBD market will be worth around $2 billion, and being the first company to receive permits, we hope to get at least 20% of the market.”

With the wait nearly over, a booming market appears on deck. In 2019, New Frontier Data projected Mexico to have a $2 billion addressable market composed of 1.4 million consumers.

The legal sector is forecasted to support between 50,000 and 75,000 jobs. The market appears to be one that favors the citizens and thwarts monopolies without depriving business opportunities.

The laws that have been proposed so far establish rules that favor social equity, prevent monopolies through vertical and horizontal integrations, and provide for considerable tax revenues that can help the country rebound from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tim Sutton, senior security consultant at security, compliance and investigations firm Guidepost Solutions.

Addressing Illicit Activity

For too long, cartel-related violence has been a concern for citizens and lawmakers alike.

Data compiled by the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Conflict Tracker found that drug-related murders rose by 15% in Mexico during 2018, leaving over 33,300 people dead. The murders included at least 130 politicians and lawmakers.

But legal adult use market expects to cut into cartel operations, which are already feeling the legal U.S. market’s effects.

“There is a lot of violence in Mexico,” said Elizalde. “Regulating the cannabis industry can become useful to lower the impact that cartels have.”

In addition to using legalization as a tactic to curb cartel violence, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced the formation of a new National Guard to combat the illegal activity.

It is difficult to gauge the potential impact cannabis laws could have on crime in Mexico. However, a 2017 study found that bordering U.S. states saw a 13% average reduction in violent crime after legalizing cannabis.

While cartel activity is a priority, Elizalde pointed out that other significant factors are in play for the nation.

“The legal cannabis market will have a great impact on illicit activities, but the important thing to remember is that all regulations and debates on cannabis in Mexico are designed to protect users, ensuring that they all receive safe, high-quality products,” he said. “There’s no way to tell how much a legal market in Mexico would affect the revenue generated by the illicit market. But we are hopeful that these regulations make it easier for everyone to participate in the cannabis industry legally – because that’s all most people here want.”

What’s Next For Mexico Cannabis Regulations

Elizalde points out that significant work must be done before a market comes online. Mexico must still establish comprehensive regulations concerning the difference between hemp and marijuana, as well as rules for businesses and consumers, he added.

Once rules are approved, he expects opportunities to flourish.

“After everything is squared away and running smoothly, it may be more likely that an e-commerce marketplace will be possible,” said Elizalde. “This would be great for expanding access to those who are not near a brick-and-mortar retailer.”

Many projections expect Mexico to be the most lucrative legalized market. ]]>