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A bill to legalize and regulate the sales of marijuana in Mexico is circulating among senators, and a senior lawmaker has said it is expected to vote on the proposal before Dec. 15.

While the legislation has yet to be officially presented, the draft measure largely reflects an earlier version passed by the Senate late last year, with some revisions.

Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal Avila of the ruling MORENA party has pushed for reform and recently said there was an agreement among key lawmakers to prioritize legislation to regulate cannabis .

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled almost three years ago 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 regulations in place 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, judges ultimately voted to end the criminalization themselves in June.

Monreal has previously said the stage is set for lawmakers to pass a marijuana legalization bill in the new session after several attempts in recent years have failed to cross the finish line.

Under the bill currently in circulation, adults 18 and older would be allowed to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and grow up to six plants for their own use.

Members of the Senate health and justice committees were called upon to formulate the cannabis bill.

The text of the measure specifies that the aim of the reform is to promote “public health, human rights and sustainable development” and “to improve the living conditions of people living in the United Mexican States. “.

It would also “prevent and combat the consequences of problematic psychoactive cannabis use and help reduce the incidence of drug trafficking crime, promoting peace, security and well-being. individual and community ”.

Regulators would be responsible for developing separate rules to regulate cannabis for adult use, research and industrial production.

The bill would establish a Mexican Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis, which would be a decentralized body under the Ministry of Health. He would also be responsible for licensing, overseeing the program, and promoting public education campaigns around marijuana.

Retail licenses are expected to be issued within 18 months of enactment of the law.

In order to “compensate for the damage generated by the ban,” the bill stipulates that at least 40 percent of marijuana cultivation licenses should go to communities most affected by the criminalization of cannabis for at least the first five years. implementation. After this point, at least 20 percent of licenses should be reserved for equity applicants.

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.

Advocates are happy to see Senate leaders take seriously the need to establish regulations and provide access to cannabis for adults, but they have identified some provisions as problematic.

For example, possessing more than 200 grams of marijuana can still result in jail time.

Senate President Olga Sánchez Cordero, who previously held a cabinet-level position in the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, recently declared that “there is no more room for prohibitionist politics”. And she also says the influence of the United States is to blame for the failed marijuana criminalization laws in her country.

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.

After the Chamber of Deputies previously approved the legalization bill passed by the Senate, 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 develop good policies and not to rush into the midst of lobbying the interests of the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries.

“We must not allow ourselves to 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.

The Mexican president said in December that the vote on legalization legislation had been 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 the legalization of 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. This joint is now framed and hung in his office.

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

Read the marijuana legalization project invoice which is distributed to the Senate of Mexico below:

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