Crime & Justice

In Mexico, pot remains in legal limbo after high court ruling

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Mexico City, Jul 26 (EFE).- A month after the historic Mexican Supreme Court ruling that lifted the prohition on the recreational consumption of marijuana, cannabis remains in a confused legal limbo, given that such use remains a criminal offense in the Penal Code and the government still has not authorized the issuance of permits for personal consumption.

“We’re seeing a contradiction between these two laws that govern us. It’s something that’s very worrying and we have to keep demanding this change,” Zara Snapp, the cofounder of the Instituto RIA, which investigates drug policy in Mexico, told EFE in an interview on Monday.

After the failure of the Mexican Congress to regulate recreational cannabis, the Supreme Court of Justice on June 28 issued an historic ruling overturning the articles of the General Health Law prohibiting the recreational use of marijuana.

The magistrates ordered the Federal Commission for the Protection against Health Risks (Cofepris), which is part of the Health Secretariat, to provide permits for the consumption, cultivation and possession of marijuana to adults requesting them, although the sale and marketing of cannabis remains banned.

But almost a month later, the health regulator has not designed the authorization mechanism and sources within it told EFE that the matter “remains under review.”

As a result, consumers remain unprotected since without written permission to consume pot and without an adjustment to the Penal Code they can still be arrested and receive prison terms for possessing more than five grams of marijuana.

The record is not good, with the Mexican government taking three years to establish a regulatory mechanism for medicinal marijuana, which was legalized in Mexico in 2017.

“It’s limbo. Symbolically it’s a big step, but in the legal area it leaves us with a taste in the mouth that we’re owed something,” Tito Garza, an attorney with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) told EFE.

Having ensconced themselves in two fields where pot consumption is tolerated, one sit-in under way in front of the Senate for more than a year and another more recent one before the high court, members of the Mexican Cannabis Movement are demanding that the institutions clarify the situation.

“We don’t agree with this permit because you may want and they’re not going to give you a specific limit on the number of plants you can grow, and that would be violating our rights,” 25-year-old Edgar Aguilar, a joint in hand, said.

Like so many other people, Edgar has been arrested and bothered for smoking pot on the street, and so the so-called Sit-In 420 is being staged to demand dignified treatment from the authorities in addition to the right to freely consume pot.

“I want to be able to carry around more than five grams. Why is the government going to tell me what I can possess if it doesn’t tell me that for beer or for tobacco?” he asked.

The high court handed down the ruling after Congress three times disregarded the order the magistrates has issued to regulate recreational pot use.

The Senate and the Chamber of Deputies passed the buck until April 30, when the third and last deadline had passed for approving a law that would have made Mexico the third country in the Americas to legalize recreational marijuana use nationwide, Uruguay and Canada being the first two nations to do so.

“The (high) court was giving ultimatums. That shows the complete indifference of the lawmakers toward the Court and toward this issue in particular. It’s not an issue that they have on the agenda or that they want to deal with. There’s no political will,” Garza said.

Now, the matter returns to the hands of Congress, where the governing leftist Morena party holds a majority and where legislators must reconcile the Penal Code with the high court ruling, as well as craft a mechanism to regulate the marketing and sale of marijuana, something that was not included in the court’s decision.

Snapp said it’s “a little complicated” for the Senate to take up the decriminalization of selling marijuana in the new session beginning in September because lawmakers have no deadline date for doing so.

All this comes in spite of Mexico’s great potential in the pot market, being the world’s second-largest producer after Morocco and where legalization could generate more than $22 billion within four years, according to the Latin American Cannabis Alliance (Alcan).

In that regard, the cofounder of the Instituto RIA emphasized that moving to legalization would allow the state to collect a lot of money in taxes, saying “Nowadays the market exists but the state is not generating any profits (even though it) has the potential to do so.”

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