Mexico prepares to legalise recreational use of cannabis

Update: The Supreme Court has pushed the deadline back six months to 30 April, reportedly due to intense lobbying from companies trying to influence the legislation.

Mexico’s Senate is set to vote for a bill to fully legalise cannabis over the next week. The move is a major victory for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the president and left-wing critic of Mexico’s decades-long and notoriously violent drugs war.

Senator Ricardo Monreal (pictured), the leader of Lopez Obrador’s MORENA party in the upper chamber of congress, said on Monday that a vote on the proposal will take place later this week or next week.

“The end of the prohibitionist policy is good for the country,” he said, adding that the bill would regulate personal use and sale of cannabis as well as research into the plant. The bill may also pave the way for cooperatives that would grow cannabis, overseen by a new regulatory agency.

If approved by the Senate, the proposal would then proceed to the lower house for a vote. MORENA and its allies hold majorities in both chambers.

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In November last year, the Supreme Court said lawmakers had until 24 October to legalise cannabis, after the high court ruled in several cases that prohibition was unconstitutional.

The leader of MORENA in the lower house, Mario Delgado, has proposed that the government tightly administer a future marijuana market, but Monreal said: “There are some (proposals) that would establish a type of state-run monopoly … but we want to leave it more open,” he said.

The lawyer also said there was a possibility that the legislation could be put on hold if a public referendum on legalising cannabis sought by Lopez Obrador were to be authorised first.

“We will know in the next few days if we’re able to build a (legislative) consensus or if we wait for the referendum,” he said.

He added that “many” multinational cannabis companies have expressed their interest in investing in Mexico.

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