Despite lawmakers admitting there are human rights violations and numerous inconsistencies in the bill, Mexico’s Congress was pushing its recreational marijuana law to be passed before an April 30 deadline.
Senators argued the law can be fixed in future amendments, and not passing it — even though it’s far from problem-free — would be taking a costly step backwards in the country’s legalization efforts.
El origen del problema de regulación de #cannabis es en @senadomexicano, no legislaron p/garantizar DDHH de usuarios ni conforme a criterios de @SCJN, ahora pretenden responsabilizar a @Mx_Diputados cuando todo es juego perverso del conservadurismo en 4Thttps://t.co/iVz9TCduvv
— Martha Tagle (@MarthaTagle) April 8, 2021
In an official statement Monday, Senate president Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar said lawmakers should double efforts in the upcoming month to enact the law so that incoming elections don’t get in the way.
The Justice Commission and the Second Legislative Studies Commission have already approved the bill this week, despite finding errors, and the Health Commission is expected to approve it within the next two days.
The rush to get legalization up and running comes after the Mexican Supreme Court ruled out in 2018 that the prohibition of cannabis is unconstitutional. After three extensions, the court set the end of this month as the deadline to pass the law.
If not passed by then, with the upcoming elections in June, the law could be stalled and delayed for more than a year.
After the Health Commission approves the bill, the entire Senate has to approve it before it lands on the desk of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to be signed.
If signed, Mexico is expected to be the largest cannabis market in the world — worth US$3.2 billion per year, according to New Frontier Data.
Tensions are rising on the doorsteps of the Senate. Activists are being pushed back by law enforcement as the government grows wary of the increasing attention being paid to the protest garden there. The resistance is led by Movimiento Cannábico Mexicano, which denounces the “unconstitutional” bill.
Passing a bill with problems is better than not at all, lawmakers say
Some lawmakers say certain aspects of the legislation will increase the ability of police abuse their power over citizens.
The problem is that the bill overregulates, says Tagle, deputy for the Citizens’ Movement Party.
“[Senators who drafted the bill] generated a lot of obstacles to allow the right to use cannabis, and they added all the obstacles possible,” she tells Mugglehead in a phone interview. “The worst part is that personal consumption is still penalized.”
The new law raises the amount people are allowed to carry, but users face harsher penalties than pre-legalization if new limits are exceeded.
On Tuesday, senators from the Justice Commission found inconsistencies in the bill, including steep fines for people smoking in front of public places, schools, restaurants and government offices.
Smoking in these places wouldn’t be banned outright, but smokers could be fined of MX$5,377–$26,886, which is around C$300–$1,600.
The minimum age for voting, buying a house and consuming alcohol in Mexico is 18, but if a person wants to grow cannabis under this law they must be at least 25 years old.
Another inconsistency mentioned is the designation of CONADIC — the government branch that monitors addictions in Mexico — as the regulatory entity for cannabis permits.
“The area in charge of monitoring addictions will be the one regulating the permits to guarantee the right of the users, which is completely contradictory,” Tagle says. “Also, it’s an area that doesn’t have a budget that is reforming and integrating with mental health services, making users not only addicts but also people suffering from a mental illness.”
▶️ En materia de cannabis tenemos que regular porque se puede incurrir en falta ante la @SCJN, puntualiza el presidente de la Junta de Coordinación Política, @RicardoMonrealA. pic.twitter.com/J0tGg0jbxG
— Senado de México (@senadomexicano) April 6, 2021
‘Before we came here they were only dirt and now they are green’
This month, activists from Movimiento Cannábico Mexicano released a statement denouncing the bill as a massive violation of human rights that discriminates, stigmatizes and criminalizes the cannabis community.
Protestors have set up a grow on the steps of the Senate. Organizers of the Plantón420 demonstration have been growing plants and smoking weed outside the official building demanding the right to safe access to cannabis.
Activists blocked major roads in Mexico City after the lower chamber approved the bill in mid-March. Demonstrators in other states like Puebla and Monterrey have gathered to support the movement in public spaces, where they report being harassed by unidentified officers. Among their requests are higher cultivation limits, removal of licenses for consumption and a fair treatment to cannabis users.
On Wednesday, Plantón420 leader Pepe Rivera appeared via live stream via Facebook talking to government officials removing the protective walls of the intentionally non-compliant marijuana garden.
The officials claimed they were there to perform maintenance on the planters in the garden, which borders one of the busiest streets in the city.
“Don’t tell us that you are here to take responsibility of the planters,” he said. “Before we came here they were only dirt and now they are green.”
“We agreed with the city that we were open to have a conversation. But if the conversation is still ongoing, why are you taking action?”
Update (2021-4-8 11:00am): This article has been updated after senators requested a fourth exemption from the Supreme Court Wednesday evening.
Top image of Mexico’s Senate building by Haakon S. Krohn via Wikimedia Commons