Cannabis in Mexico [Lessons for India – Pt. 3]

Mexico will be only the third country in the world to fully legalize all aspects of cannabis consumption and production countrywide, after Uruguay and Canada.

History of cannabis legalization in Mexico

Mexico has played a pivotal role in spreading the use of cannabis globally. However, although it is very much present in the culture of the country, it has had its fair share of complex political and social issues. Mexico banned cannabis in 1920. The last two decades have been a slow road towards legalization. 

One of the leading figures in this road to legalization is ex-president Vicente Fox, who fiercely advocated for the war on drugs during his mandate (2000-2006), and years later publicly declared that he was in favor of legalization. His successor, President Calderón, decriminalized the possession of cannabis for personal use in 2009, and cannabis was approved for medical and scientific use in 2017

Currently, the legalization of its recreational use is on the table. On March 10, 2021, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies legalized recreational marijuana. The bill allows adults to smoke and home-grow plants with a permit (up to 28 grams and six plants per individual), as well as licensed farmers to cultivate and sell in greater quantities. This bill now awaits the approval of the Mexican Senate. If the bill is approved, the bill will then go before President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in order to be signed into law. This would likely make Mexico the country with the biggest cannabis market in the world

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Challenges for the upcoming Mexican cannabis industry

The fact that with legalization, individuals abiding by the new law will no longer be subject to imprisonment is an advancement of individual rights and civil liberties in Mexico. However, the upcoming legal market faces multiple challenges. 

Mexico has a history of decades of cannabis usage, but are these consumers willing to move their buying habits into a legal marketplace? In a poll published last year in the newspaper El Financiero, 58 percent of respondents opposed full legalization. Due to this hesitancy among the Mexican community, it is unlikely that a legal system will displace some of the large illicit cartels. 

Jorge Rubio, the co-founder of and an advisor of Mexican cannabis regulations, explains that cartels in Mexico control a large part of the market for various products, even guacamole, and extort money from producers. So legalization is unlikely to prevent the eradication of these cartels. Even US states where recreational cannabis has been legalized are grappling with the continued presence of large black markets

The question then arises is will legalization at least defund these cartels or reduce their tendency towards violence? According to Jorge, that is unlikely to happen as well. Cannabis legalization is not likely to deprive violent criminal groups of money.

Additionally, the Mexican cannabis industry faces the problem of rampant corruption. Corrupt police officers will likely extort subjects under claims of higher-than-limit possession. Those who will pay a bribe might get off, but those who refuse will end up facing legal proceedings. Brazil faced a similar situation when cannabis was decriminalized several years ago. 

Lessons for the Indian cannabis industry 

Implementation is a challenge for every country, no matter how good the law is. However, once institutions are set up, Mexico can show us the way. Jorge shares ways Mexico needs to adopt to become a successful legal cannabis market: 

While India may not face the problem of a dominant illegal market, the number one challenge that we will also need to address is to convey, inform and educate consumers. Proper regulatory institutions will need to be set up to ensure that India meets its potential of becoming a $25 billion cannabis industry

Will cannabis legalization in Mexico reduce violent criminality? Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

Read my blogs to find out lessons India can learn from the cannabis market in USA and Canada

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