The Mexican Supreme Court approved another request to extend the deadline by which lawmakers must pass legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana.

In 2018, the court ruled the country’s prohibition on marijuana possession and cultivation as unconstitutional. They then set a deadline of October 30, 2019, for Congress to amend Mexico’s cannabis laws but lawmakers requested an extension amid protracted negotiations over the form such legislation would take. The Supreme Court granted an extension up to April 30, 2020, but with the country now grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s highest court has accepted another request to give lawmakers more time.

Now, lawmakers must pass legislation to legalize possession and cultivation of cannabis by the end of the next legislative session – December 15, 2020.

While lawmakers may have failed to meet their second deadline to reform the country’s cannabis laws, there has been notable progress. The Justice, Health, Legislative Studies and Public Safety Committees all signed off on the cannabis legalization bill and it is now set for a full floor vote in the Senate. If approved, the bill must then pass the Chamber of Deputies (Lower House) before making its way to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

The proposed measure would allow adults 18 years and older to possess and grow cannabis for personal consumption. The bill would impose a possession limit of 28 grams, but possession up to 200 grams would be decriminalized. Individuals could apply to grow up to 20 plants a year, with a maximum total yield of 480 grams. Medical cannabis patients could apply for permission to grow more than 20 plants in a single year. The bill further allows for consuming cannabis in public spaces, except in areas specifically designated as smoke-free.

The bill would establish the Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis which would be charged with issuing cannabis business licenses and regulating marijuana market activity. Cannabis sales would be subject to a 12 percent tax, with provisions of the bill stipulating that a portion of these revenues are allocated toward a substance-misuse treatment fund.

Certain provisions of the legalization bill aim to empower smaller, domestic businesses by capping foreign investment in a marijuana business to 49 percent, limiting retail points of sale and cultivatable areas for any one cannabis business, and restricting marijuana businesses to one license type – either cultivation, processing, retail or import/export. But some marijuana reform activists argue that smaller businesses and agrarian communities should be exempt from the latter restrictions to aid their growth and integration into what would be the world’s largest legal cannabis market. There are also calls for lawmakers to use the extra time granted by the Supreme Court to incorporate more social equity provisions, especially aimed at those most harmed by the country’s drug war.

“We believe that this bill is urgent for Mexico, particularly once we get past the pandemic and are able to restart the economy. Regulating cannabis will be a key measure that could be used to generate formal jobs and provide a more just wage for people who are involved in this entire production chain,” said Zara Snapp, a marijuana reform activist with Instituto RIA and #RegulacionPorLaPaz.

“We also hope that this will provide them with the opportunity to integrate social justice into every aspect of the bill,” she said.

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