Mexico is attempting to reduce the cartel-related crime rate that haunts the country by legalizing marijuana.
Is Adult-use Cannabis Legal in Mexico?
Adult-use cannabis is not yet legal in Mexico. In November of 2020, the Mexican upper house passed a legalization bill, but it had to go through another vote after adding a few changes. Recently the lower house approved draft legislation that will likely be passed in the upper house and then sent to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. While many conservatives complain that this will lead to drug addiction and other violent crimes, marijuana advocates say it’s a step in the right direction.
Zara Snapp, a marijuana activist, from the NGO ‘Instituto RIA’ (which seeks to reform Mexico’s drug laws), believes the US could legalize cannabis in the next few years. For Snapp, the reason for legalizing cannabis in Mexico is more important though. “Instead of the government wasting its limited resources on persecuting and going after people who use cannabis, hopefully, the police would have greater time to really go after the high-impact crimes that concern all of us; kidnapping, extortion, corruption, disappearances, homicide.”
Possession of more than five grams of pot in Mexico can result in jail time, while more severe crimes often are treated as a lackluster attempt at justice. “Of course I know that there will be challenges and that legalizing cannabis will not solve all of our problems. But you have to start somewhere right? We’ve experienced a lot of support, even from people who you would say are connected to organized crime and who want to do things differently. There’s definitely a push for changing the way we live,” said Snapp.
Challenges Mexico Faces with Legalizing Cannabis
Economist Edgardo Buscaglia is wary of any hasty decision to legalize marijuana. He claims the regulatory mechanisms in place for other legal substances aren’t even enough. “You know, the Mexican state has a lot of vacuums, institutions that don’t work. Therefore all the good intentions that a law legalizing marijuana may have will not mean anything for public health if the quality of the regulatory institutional environment is not appropriate if it doesn’t have a minimum standard.”
Buscaglia, who researches economics and law at Columbia University in New York City, went on to say that, “Legalizing cannabis will not affect those organized crime structures because they’re extremely diversified in many, many businesses. Even legalizing all kinds of drugs would not dismantle organized crime. This goes back to them having control of other fields, such as cigarettes, alcohol, and even avocados. The cartels are transnational corporations and they’re involved in all kinds of legal and illegal businesses beyond drugs.”
Currently with marijuana prohibition in Mexico the cartels have vast power across much of the country. Legalization would directly reduce one of their highest sources of income which can make a huge difference in how they operate. For now, we will continue to promote marijuana advocacy until we put all violent legacy market dealers out of business.
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