Marijuana Legalization Looking Up South Of The Border

Marijuana Legalization Looking Up South Of The Border

Add Mexico to the list of countries that are seeing the light when it comes to marijuana legalization.

In a move driven, in equal parts, by the medicinal potential of marijuana and a pressing need to curb drug-related violence, Mexico's Lower House of Congress has passed a bill that legalizes the use of marijuana and cannabis for medical and scientific needs.

What's in the new bill?

Last year, the Mexican government started granting permits that allow some patients to import medicinal marijuana products. The country also decriminalized small amounts of marijuana and issued several permits for people to cultivate and possess pot for personal use. Those permits only apply to the individuals who applied for them, however, and not the entire country.

RelatedNot Quite Legal: Canada’s New Cannabis Regulations

The new marijuana legalization bill would not only authorize cultivation of marijuana plants for medical and scientific purposes, but also makes legal the purchase, sale, import, and export of products with concentrations of 1 percent THC or less. The new legislation will also hopefully help reduce violence among drug cartels that has plagued Mexico for decades.

According to Rep. Arturo Alvarez of the Green Party, the new legislation “is a step in the right direction of exploring new alternatives of regulated, legalized, and supervised use, and can open up a new front for authorities to combat addictions and the violence that arises from the illicit activities of drug growing, trafficking and consumption.”

Awaiting the president's signature

The legislation, which now classifies the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as "therapeutic,” passed easily by a vote of 374-7 with 11 abstentions, is expected to be signed into law by President Enrique Peña Nieto.

As Reuters reports, Peña Nieto, once a vocal opponent of legalization efforts, has more recently called drug use a “public health problem,” and says that users should not be criminalized. Last year, he proposed a bill — now held up in Congress — that would permit Mexicans to carry upwards of an ounce of pot, and he says that Mexico and the United States should be unified in their marijuana legislation.

While the two nations are still considerably far apart when it comes marijuana legalization, Mexico’s bill and recent rule-making in the U.S. have brought them closer together.

RelatedMedical Marijuana Update: Luxembourg

North American marijuana movement

Last year, five states in the U.S. wound up legalizing medical cannabis, bringing the total number to 28. Also, the number of states where recreational marijuana is legal doubled from four to eight. A measure that would have made Arizona the ninth state failed by a mere 2 percent at the polls.

As the Motley Fool notes, expanded access in the U.S., coupled with Canada’s healthy medical marijuana industry, boosted legal pot sales in North America to $6.9 billion — an increase of 34%.

Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001 (with recreational legislation now being considered), support for nationwide legalization in the U.S. has never been higher, and Mexico appears to blazing a similar trail. If this trend continues, North America could soon serve as a model — and inspiration — for legalization across the globe.