Mexico is poised to become largest legal cannabis market in the world, but cannabis activists fear only corporations will benefit
“It’s basically revitalizing prohibition for the poor.”
For the last nine months, every morning as Mexico’s senators and other government officials walk up the stairs into the Senate building where they work, they pass a flourishing garden of cannabis plants and a wafting cloud of pot smoke. Mexicans, smoking joints, stroll amongst the 1000+ plants, in a patriotic act of protest.
That garden and the smoke from those Mexicans’ joints is meant to remind their lawmakers that their constituents want a legal cannabis industry — and they don’t want it handed over to big businesses and foreign investors.
Two years ago the Mexican Supreme Court struck down a marijuana ban as unconstitutional, and now lawmakers have until December 15th to pass pot legislation. But, according to cannabis activists, the proposed draft bill would prevent small businesses from getting in the game — handing the industry over instead to big, largely foreign companies.
Not only that, but a stipulation within the bill would require any Mexican who wanted to legally consume cannabis, to first obtain a license from the government.
“They’re not thinking about users. They’re thinking about the industry,” said Pepe Rivera, who’s Mexican Cannabis Movement group organized the pot garden outside the senate, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It’s basically revitalizing prohibition for the poor but carving out a legal market for big businesses.”
Presently, cannabis isn’t technically “legal” in Mexico, but it was effectively “decriminalized” by their Supreme Court in their 2018 decision. Still, without guidelines for recreational use, cannabis has been left in a legal limbo. Many pro-cannabis activists and lawmakers saw the Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 as a huge step forward for the country, and as a profitable new industry that could uplift the Mexican economy and empower small businesses and entrepreneurs.
However, the form of legalization outlined in the draft bill would not accomplish that. Sure, it would legalize weed, but it wouldn’t open up business opportunities for people like it has in Colorado and other legal states throughout the US. And on top of that, it would require people get a permit from the government to consume cannabis at all, and limit individual growers to just six plants a piece.
It wouldn’t create prosperity for Mexican citizens — it would create what Rivera called an “elite gourmet market” that would only benefit certain corporations and upper class users.
“There has been a lot of interference ... transnational companies that have wanted to influence our decisions,” he told the LA times. “But we make the final decision.”
The legislation is expected to pass sometime in the next two weeks, and then it will go to the lower house of Congress.
What it looks like when it’s finally passed, and who it gives the upper hand to remains to be seen. The Mexican government knows that they’re legislating a potentially multi-billion-dollar industry for their country. Whether they allow small businesses and Mexican entrepreneurs into the game, or save it for their big-business investor buddies, remains to be seen.
And until it is, that garden of cannabis plants outside the senate will remain, and the Mexicans wandering amongst it will continue their protests.
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