Mexico on the verge of passing landmark cannabis bill

People 18 years and older and with a permit, would be able to grow, carry or consume cannabis and its derivatives.

Cannabis users smoking inside a protest cannabis garden next to Mexico's Senate building during a call for legalisation, in Mexico City, Mexico [File: Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

The full chamber of the Mexican Lower House is expected to discuss and vote on a bill this week that decriminalises cannabis, in a move that, if passed, would make the country one of the world’s largest markets for the drug.

The bill, backed by the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, would mark a major shift in a country bedevilled for years by violence between feuding drug cartels.

The debate was scheduled to begin on Tuesday, but EFE news agency, citing unnamed government sources reported that the debate was postponed until Wednesday. It remains unclear when the voting would be held.

Late on Monday, two special committees of Mexico’s Lower House of Congress approved a draft bill.

Only people 18 years and older, and with a permit, may grow, carry or consume cannabis and its derivatives, according to the bill, which Lopez Obrador’s governing Morena party proposed. Morena has a majority in both chambers of Congress.

Under the bill, residents may be able to be in possession of up to 28 grammes of cannabis [File: Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

According to the draft, a person may legally be in possession of up to 28 grammes of cannabis intended for their personal consumption, which is equivalent to 28 cigarettes.

And at home, people may grow up to six cannabis plants, but only eight plants are permitted in shared residences.

The health and justice committees approved the bill, which easily passed the Senate in a vote in November and would create a huge new legal market for cannabis that companies are eager to tap.

Colombian-Canadian Khiron Life Sciences, Canada’s Canopy Growth and The Green Organic Dutchman, as well as Medical cannabis from California, are among other firms eyeing Mexico.

The bill would also allow consumers to grow cannabis plants at home [File: Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

The bill would create the Mexican Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis, which will issue five types of licenses for the cultivation, transformation, sale, research and export or import of cannabis.

Former President Vicente Fox, who is on the board of global medical cannabis company Khiron Life Sciences, told Reuters that the move would help create much-needed jobs creation and economic investment in the country.

Fox said he expects Congress to pass the bill this week.

But experts say, the move is also likely to have implications for the United States.

“It creates some really interesting trade issues,” Andrew Rudman, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, told NBC News. “Mexico legalising is going to strengthen the push for, if not legalisation, decriminalisation in the US.”

Lopez Obrador, as well as other leaders who support the bill, have argued that decriminalising cannabis and other narcotics could help the country combat Mexico’s powerful drug cartels.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies