It’s been over three years since medical cannabis was approved by the National Congress in Mexico, and the country is still waiting for the Federal Commission of Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) to grant bylaws, with nothing having happened yet. Last August, the Mexican Ministry of Health published Draft Regulations on the website of the Federal Regulatory and Compliance Commission (CONAMER), and these regulations were rejected a few weeks ago because of the poor legal framework of how to establish a medical opportunity for patients, physicians and companies.
Related: Hope for Legal Marijuana in Mexico
On the other hand, the National Congress, which includes the lower and upper chambers (Senate and Deputies), has a deadline set by the Mexican Supreme Court to establish cannabis regulation by December 15th of 2020. The National Congress has had more than ten bills to analyse during the last two years, and it is experiencing the strong pressure of cannabis collectives that are more interested in having the right to smoke a joint than creating and developing the marijuana and hemp industry in the country.
Current cannabis legislation in Mexico
Today, marijuana in Mexico is a stigmatised plant related to criminal groups that have owned the cannabis industry for the last four decades since the first drug cartels started operations smuggling weed across the border between Mexico and the U.S. The stories and legends of the cartels of Sinaloa, Guadalajara, Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez are well known worldwide.
Mexico’s current legal framework for cannabis (marijuana and hemp) and products derived from it is creating a mess in terms of import, distribution and access. Most of the cannabidiol (CBD) products are commercialised via social media rather than a pharmacy or an authorised retail point of sale.
Some entrepreneurs and local growers use a legal resource called Amparo to establish business models, all of them walking the thin line of legality.
What to expect at the international level?
Internationally speaking, many conferences worldwide are talking about Mexico’s potential as a place to grow marijuana and hemp, as well as the opportunity to export CBD products and extraction and greenhouses technologies. Many Mexican and international entrepreneurs are already making several connections and agreements to enter the second biggest market for personal care products in Latin-American, with a population of more than 130 million.
It has been more than one year since the Draft Regulations were published, but it was not an easy path. This was mainly because federal authorities have a lack of knowledge about the cannabis industry and because of the crime and violence across the country. Mexico is a very conservative society, and the cannabis leaf is a symbol of drug cartels and stigma for most Mexicans. Also, some sources claim that drug cartels have infiltrated Mexico’s top security ranks.
The legalisation of cannabis in Mexico is an ongoing process that encompasses different legal steps and challenges. Policymakers need to better understand how the industry is moving in other international jurisdictions to make use of Mexico´s economic potential as a big player. Unfortunately, the presence of drug cartels could be a ‘deal-breaker’ for local growers interested in producing legal hemp or marijuana at a medium or large scale.
With clear cannabis regulations, more physicians and medical institutions will be able to research cannabis and understand its medicinal potential and benefits. At the moment, the Mexican society is ready for medicinal cannabis but not at all ready for a recreational cannabis industry.
Challenges in the coming years
If cannabis regulation is approved this year, the next step for 2021 is the creation of bylaws, which will cover the operational aspects of the law and all the implementation details, like granting licences, imports of CBD products, seed regulations, GMP and many other aspects.
That being said, the real challenges that Mexico will face after passing cannabis regulation are numerous. Here are some of the problems that Mexico will need to face:
1. The bureaucracy of different government offices to process licences and permits for growing, manufacturing, retailing and importing cannabis.
2. Potential conflicts of interest in the process of granting licences.
3. Lack of transparency and legislation to detect the legal origin of economic resources and how to prevent money laundering.
4. The influence of criminal groups in growing and distributing recreational cannabis and products derived from marijuana.
5. Complex agriculture laws.
6. Excessive regulation and no support for the economic development of the industry.
7. Local authorities with no influence and specific interest in this sector.
8. Priority of adult-use rather than a focus on medical and industrial hemp.
9. Lack of knowledge and education of physicians and nurses around medical cannabis.
10. Lack of enforcement at the borders to supervise the import of CBD and THC products.
11. High risk of counterfeiting and pirating of products.