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The President of the Mexican Senate said lawmakers could push forward legislation to regulate marijuana in the coming weeks – the latest in a long line of management comments on plans to finally implement rules to regulate legally the production and sale of cannabis.

Almost three years ago, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the country’s ban on personal possession and cultivation of cannabis was unconstitutional. Lawmakers were then forced to pass the policy change, but have since been unable to reach consensus on legislation to put in place regulations for a marijuana program.

At the request of lawmakers, the court agreed to extend its deadline for Congress to formally end the ban on multiple occasions. But due to repeated unsuccessful attempts to meet those deadlines, the judges ultimately voted to end the criminalization themselves in June.

“In these times, there is no room for prohibitionist politics,” said Senate President Olga Sánchez Cordero, who previously held a ministerial post in the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during an event marking the opening of a new Senate. -hosted a cannabis exhibition on Tuesday.

“We are the Mexico of freedoms, and people are aware of it,” she said. noted, according to a translation. Lawmakers will pass the implementing legislation “in the weeks or months to come, but I don’t want any more time to pass,” she said.

“The policy that we want to build in the Senate of the Republic aims to eliminate prohibitionism and to guarantee the safety and the control of the consumption on the basis of an appropriate regulation”, declared the senator.

Senator Martha Lucía Micher Camarena, leader of the ruling MORENA party, said their “engagement is with Mexicans, it’s with indigenous communities, it’s with people’s health, with recreation.”

Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal Avila also said recently that the stage is set for lawmakers to pass a bill to legalize marijuana in the new session after several attempts in recent years have failed. ‘failed to cross the finish line.

“With the start of the LXV legislature, a new possibility has opened up to discuss and approve this long-delayed law, which would end 100 years of prohibitionist policy and criminalization of the consumption of the cannabis flower, opening, to its tour, a multi-million dollar market nationally and internationally, which could be beneficial for the economic reactivation of our country, ”he said earlier this month.

After the Supreme Court independently struck down the ban earlier this year, lawyers stressed that the ruling underscores the need for lawmakers to swiftly adopt a measure to implement a comprehensive system of legal and regulated sales. . They want to ensure that a fair market is established, that it tackles the evils of criminalization on certain communities and that it promotes personal freedom.

Lawmakers have come close to achieving that goal over the past three years, but have failed to get the job done.

The Senate approved a legalization bill late last year, then the Chamber of Deputies made revisions and passed it in March, sending it back to the original chamber. A few Senate committees then passed and authorized the amended measure, but leaders quickly began to point out that certain revisions made the proposal unworkable.

Monreal said further revisions may be needed to prepare a final bill to be enacted.

“If this law is approved during this ordinary part-session, some changes should also be made to the legal framework for tax collection, to provide for a special tax on cannabis and its derivatives, as is the case for others. products having an impact on the public. health: spirits, beer, gasoline and tobacco, ”he said, estimating that this could translate into the equivalent of nearly US $ 1 billion in revenue.

After the Chamber of Deputies previously approved the Senate legalization bill, senators said the revised proposal was in critical internal conflict – over provisions regarding legal possession limits, the definition of hemp and other matters – and lawmakers themselves could be subject to criminal liability if it entered into force as drafted.

But Monreal said in April that if the court issues a declaration of unconstitutionality before a measure to regulate cannabis is approved, it will cause “chaos.”

The senior senator also spoke about the importance for lawmakers to take their time to craft good policies and not to rush into the midst of lobbying the interests of the tobacco industry and the pharmaceutical industry.

“We must not let ourselves be pushed by interests,” he said at the time. “The Senate must act with great caution in this matter. “

Senator Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar of the MORENA party said in April that “at this time it is important to legislate in the terms presented to us” and then to consider further revisions of the cannabis laws through drafts. subsequent laws.

This is the position many legalization advocates have taken as well, urging lawmakers to pass a flawed bill immediately, and then work on fixing it later.

Under the proposal, adults 18 and older would be allowed to buy and own up to 28 grams of marijuana and grow up to six plants for their personal use. MEPs made changes which mainly concern the regulatory structure, commercial market rules and licensing policies.

One of the most notable changes made by the Chamber of Deputies was that the revised bill would not establish a new independent regulatory body to oversee the authorization and implementation of the program as approved by the Senate. . Instead, it would give that authority to an existing agency, the National Commission against Drug Addiction.

MPs also approved further revisions to increase penalties for unauthorized possession of large amounts of cannabis, prevent the conversion of forest land to marijuana growing areas and require regulators to “coordinate campaigns against consumption. cannabis problem and… are developing permanent actions to dissuade and prevent its consumption. by minors and vulnerable groups.

The defenders hoped for better. Throughout this legislative process, they have called for changes to further promote social fairness and eliminate strict penalties for violating the law.

While the bill would prioritize licensing to marginalized communities, advocates fear there may not be sufficiently strict and specific criteria to actually ensure that this ends up being the case. They also called for an amendment to have a specific percentage of licenses reserved for these communities, but that did not happen.

Monreal, for his part, said ahead of the House of Representatives vote that “there is no problem if they change the cannabis law, we have no problem.”

“This is their job and their function. And when we get back, we will consider whether they are appropriate or not, ”he said. noted, according to a translation. “The idea is to regulate the use of cannabis and not to ignore a prohibitionist approach which has generated a great social problem in the country.”

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in December that the vote on legalization legislation was delayed due to minor “errors” in the proposal.

The legalization bill authorized a mixed group of Senate committees before the full vote in that chamber last year, with some amendments made after members informally reviewed and debated the proposal in a meeting. virtual hearing.

Members of the Senate committees on justice, health and legislative studies also approved an earlier version of legal cannabis legislation last year, but the pandemic has delayed consideration of the matter. Senator Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar of the MORENA party said in April that legalizing cannabis could fill the treasury coffers as the economy recovers from the health crisis.

As lawmakers scramble to push reform legislation forward, some members and activists have been more light-hearted in calling attention to the issue. This push mainly involved the planting and donation of marijuana.

At the end of last year, Sánchez Cordero, then a senior administration official, was offered a cannabis plant by the senator in the Senate, and she said she would make it part of her personal garden. .

Another lawmaker gave Sánchez Cordero a joint of marijuana on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies in 2019.

Cannabis made another appearance in the legislature last year, when Senator Jesusa Rodríguez of the MORENA party decorated her office with a marijuana plant.

Advocates for drug policy reform have also cultivated hundreds of marijuana plants outside the Senate, pressuring lawmakers to keep their promises to advance legalization.

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Photo courtesy of Senado de la Republica.

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