A Long Road to Legalization: How Mexico Will Fit in the Global Cannabis Economy

Cannabis legalization in Mexico carries substantial weight. Since the fall of Colombia’s cartels, Mexico’s have come to dominate the black market. For viewers of Netflix’s Narcos and Narcos: Mexico (like myself), the impact of the Drug War and the violent influence of cartels has become captivating subject matter to American audiences. The reality is even more horrifying.

Drug-related homicides in Mexico rose to a record high in 2018, including more than 60,000 Mexico civilians. Today, it’s estimated that 90% of cocaine flowing into the U.S. comes from Mexico. Policy-based solutions to the Drug War are hard to find. With his country struggling with black market activity and economic hardship, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the Mexico Senate have pushed for a path to cannabis legalization to create market opportunities and minimize the cartels’ power.

The Future of Mexico’s Cannabis Policy

This week, I travelled to our southern neighbor to discuss the future of Mexico’s cannabis policy with top political decision makers. I was there with HLG international attorney, Luis Armendariz, who specializes in cross-border business law and corporate transactions. Mexico’s history is important in understanding the road to reform. 

The first major step came in October of 2018, when Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the law prohibiting recreational use of cannabis was unconstitutional. Later that year, President Obrador traveled to Canada with key members of his cabinet to discuss Canada’s path to legalization with the Trudeau administration.

 

A year later, in October 2019, the Mexican Senate unveiled a bill to legalize adult-use marijuana — the closest the country has come to legalizing cáñamo. In Mexico City, you can feel the momentum building, as the Senate has until April 30, 2020, to pass reform legislation.

Hoban Law Group Working Across The Border

Bob Hoban and Mexico-based HLG international attorney, Luis Armendariz, after speaking with Mexico Senators working on the preliminary cannabis bill at the Senate of the Republic

 

On February 25th, Luis and I met with President Obrador’s top aides, Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal who’s championing the new bill, and a group of Mexico-based cannabusinesses. We covered many issues and I offered my experience with U.S. cannabis regulations and with other countries in Latin America.

Mexico and The Global Cannabis Economy

With Mexico on the brink, it’s critical for policy makers to understand how their nation will fit into the global cannabis economy. Patterns are emerging — state-by-state and country-by-country — regarding cannabis legalization, with pros and cons for different legislative approaches around the world. Learning from these trends can help greatly in enacting good legalization policy.

 

One of the most important challenges for a government like Mexico’s is to identify market obstacles. My message to them: ensure that the same standardized controls and processes required for other exports are being implemented as a general rule for cannabis-derived products. In other words, start treating these products the same as all other export commodities.

 

It’s imperative that countries employ the existing standards and rules dictating international trade, including GMP standards, food/dietary supplement production standards, and the like. This is the key point I made to the Senate of the Republic.

 

Ending the era of global cannabis prohibition is a major obstacle that our world is overcoming day-by-day, country-by-county. But the next step is equally important. For the cannabis market to achieve sustainable, long-term success, all the pieces (i.e. the countries) have to fit together. That’s how we build the global cannabis supply chain. That’s the key to a bright future for Mexico. And this is the message to all countries if they want a seat at the table of the global cannabis economy.

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