MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Five months after the upper house of Mexico’s Congress, the Senate, voted in favor of the legalization of medicinal marijuana, the lower house Chamber of Deputies has followed suit and has approved the impending legislation.
In late 2016, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his congressional allies introduced a broad initiative to “discuss” legislation concerning marijuana in all its forms, including laws concerning its medicinal uses.
“Despite being personally against any legalization of marijuana, I accept that an intensive and public debate on the issue would permit the nation and our laws to arrive at a different position,” Peña Nieto said. “My truth cannot be everyone else’s, in all aspects of politics and life, marijuana included.”
In addition to holding several forums in different cities across Mexico concerning marijuana legalization, Peña Nieto’s plan is two-fold: the first stage consisted of a “wide-ranging debate carried out by citizens and experts in medicine, criminology and other specialists on the pertinent topic.”
Depending upon how this discussion period plays out and the conclusions reached, the second stage would then involve the participation of the Mexican legislature in defining the future national policies concerning marijuana legalization, including a possible re-working of the regulatory framework that would allow for amendments to the current laws.
The first of these topics focused on marijuana’s medicinal use, which came into the limelight in October of 2015 when an 8-year-old girl who suffered from severe daily epileptic seizures was given the first medical marijuana use authorization by a judge of a local-level Mexico City court.
The decision, which applied only to the young girl, was given media coverage and in response, thousands of parents across Mexico rallied to be given the same rights for their children. Raúl Elizalde, the father of the 8-year-old girl, shared how the treatment greatly helped his daughter and appeared as the face of the movement at many events.
The case of the young girl put the wheels in motion for a nationwide hearing and in December of 2016, a vote on the legalization of medicinal marijuana use reached the Senate.
Feeling the overwhelming support that the Mexican public felt for the legalization of the medicinal use of marijuana, the Senate voted in such a way and approved the measure by a vote of 98 in favor and 7 against. The Chamber of Deputies also easily approved the measure this week in a vote of 301 in favor and 88 against.
The specific policies of the law, which will now go before Peña Nieto to be signed, are to be determined by the Health Ministry. That said government department will regulate the medicinal use of the pharmacological derivatives of marijuana as well as the study of future national production of those products. Initially, the medicine will be imported from other nations.
With the ratification of the bill, Mexico now joins other Latin American nations like Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Like the laws in those other nations, Mexico’s version also forbids the patients or their guardians from growing and cultivating the cannabis themselves; only the national medical authorities are allowed to produce the product and provide the patients with the medicine, but this may be amended in the future.