Legalized Weed Coming To Mexico

But don’t start lighting up in public just yet, unless you have a medical condition

As the U.S. becomes more progressive on its stance on marijuana, and more states are voting to legalize it, Mexico is watching closely and might soon follow.

Mexico's Congress passed a bill recently approving the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the latest in a series of legal changes and court rulings that have relaxed weed laws in Mexico. The measure passed in a general floor vote with 371 in favor, seven against and 11 abstentions. Under the new bill, THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is now classified as "therapeutic." The government has allowed the importation of medicine containing cannabidiol (CBD), an active chemical ingredient of marijuana, on a case-by-case basis since 2015.

The new bill was approved by the Senate in December, with senators overwhelmingly voted (98-7) to legalize medicinal marijuana. This came just eight months after Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, proposed a review of national drug policy, saying he was open to the idea of legalizing it for medical use. Nieto, who was once a vocal opponent of drug legalization, is expected to sign the bill.

The bill is a logical stop on the path to full legalization, which cannabis advocates say would quell gang activity that has plagued Mexico for years. On its website, Congress made a statement saying: "The ruling eliminates the prohibition and criminalization of acts related to the medicinal use of marijuana and its scientific research, and those relating to the production and distribution of the plant for these purposes.”

The government also considering decriminalizing possession of small quantities (an ounce or less) of marijuana, but that measure was stalled in Congress. Recreational marijuana is still broadly prohibited in Mexico, but in 2015 the Supreme Court granted four people the right to grow their own marijuana for personal consumption, opening the door to legalization.

Since lighting up joints for fun is still illegal, Mexicans cross the border to the U.S., where they can easily get weed, and bring back small quantities for their own enjoyment rather than to sell, and it is these folks who will be affected

Why cross the border for marijuana? For starters, the Mexican marijuana sold by street dealers in Tijuana has a roughly two percent concentration of THC, while the California-grown product's concentration can exceed 30 percent. As soon as it became legal to grow marijuana in some states, our smarty pants guys improved the product beyond anything any Mexican grower ever did. Marijuana is now flowing south, not north.

Although Mexico is still a much more conservative country than the U.S. when it comes to legalized pot, Mexicans are warming up to the idea. Nearly a third of voters in Mexico currently support legalizing marijuana for recreational use; in 2008 only 7% approved of legal pot.

When the vote to legalize medicinal marijuana in Mexico was cast in the Senate in December, 98 out of 127 senators backed it, with just seven votes against. Newspapers were filled with stories of cannabis’s potential in the treatment of a host of conditions. Even the Catholic Archbishop of Mexico City gave his blessing to the bill.

Like a pothead’s bedroom, though, the path to full legalization is strewn with obstacles. Peña’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is torn between pandering to its traditional base and appealing to younger Mexicans who, like their peers elsewhere, are more relaxed about cannabis. The PRI’s poor performance in last June’s governors’ elections was partly blamed on Peña’s proposed reforms of marijuana and gay-marriage laws, which may have alienated social conservatives. Since then, decriminalization has been delayed.

For those of you excited by the possibility of being able to light up legally here, don’t get too excited yet. Politicians are unlikely to race far ahead of public opinion. But California may hint at things to come: 46% of Latinos there voted in favor of legalization in 2010. This time, exit polls put the figure at 57%. And President Nieto has gone on record as suggesting that the U.S. and Mexico must be on the same page when it comes to marijuana policies. With more and more states passing bills that legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana, it might only be a matter of time.