Is weed legal in Mexico?
Technically speaking, medical marijuana is legal and adult-use, or recreational, is not. But it's a bit more complicated than that. Mexico legalized medical cannabis in June 2017 with a measure that only allowed the use of imported cannabis derivatives with low-THC content. There's been a lot of legal back and forth, but the country does seem poised to finally make good on the promise of medical legalization with a more modern approach sometime in 2021.
Adult-use cannabis has not been fully legalized in Mexico, but possession of 5 grams or less of marijuana for recreational use was decriminalized in 2009. The end of 2020 saw the Mexican Senate approve legalization, allowing production, retail sales, and home cultivation. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is reported to have said it's just a matter of hammering out the details to get both medical and adult-use marijuana legalized in early 2021.
Mexico has had a long and complicated relationship with cannabis throughout its history. Marijuana has been grown in Mexico since as early as the 16th century when hemp was popular for rope and textiles. In 1920, the production of cannabis for recreational use was banned and in 1927, exports were also forbidden. Soon after, marijuana was criminalized throughout the country. Mexican weed laws and policies in many ways mirrored and were shaped by the anti-marijuana movement that developed in the United States at the same time.
But not always. In 1940, Mexico completely rethought its drug policies. For six months, the Federal Regulation of Drug Addiction decriminalized the sale and use of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin and released small-time drug offenders from jails. Instead of imposing punitive measures, the law allowed doctors to establish outpatient clinics and treatments and prescribe narcotics to addicts.
Despite generally encouraging early reports, including the cratering of the illegal drug trade, the law was overturned. Citing wartime shortages in morphine and cocaine, and facing threats of US embargoes due to the policy, the government threw out the legislation and restored the earlier penalties. By December 1940, a new administration took over in Mexico and began military operations against marijuana farmers. With US aid, unsuccessful attempts were made to eradicate crops of marijuana and poppy fields in the 1970s with aerial spraying of herbicides.
On Dec. 11, 2006, Mexico launched its war on drugs when troops were dispersed throughout the country in an attempt to thwart drug cartels and their black market operations. It has been a bloody and costly campaign. Estimates range into the hundreds of thousands of dead, plus tens of thousands missing and abducted. The cost has been staggering, corruption remains rampant, and the cartels remain entrenched.
In August 2009, possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana was decriminalized. Between 2015 and 2018, the Supreme Court issued a series of rulings loosening restrictions on the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. The court found the prohibition of medical marijuana violated the constitutional right to health.
In October 2018, the high court expanded its ruling to include recreational marijuana, arguing that the prohibition against consuming cannabis violated the constitutional right to free development of personality. The last ruling was the fifth by the court on the issue, making it binding on all courts in the country. After ignoring or extending several deadlines, the Mexican government seems poised to take up both medical and recreational marijuana legalization in 2021.
Frequently asked questions
Where do you buy marijuana in Mexico?
Cannabis sales are illegal in Mexico, though possession of up to 5 grams is legal.
What effects have the legalization of marijuana had on Mexico?
Medical marijuana was technically legalized in 2017 but nothing has changed yet. Adult-use cannabis remains illegal.
What is the present status of marijuana legalization in Mexico?
As of early 2021, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said the government will finalize legalization laws in the coming months.
What drugs are decriminalized in Mexico?
According to the US Library of Congress, possession of the following amounts of drugs is not a punishable offense, though anyone caught with these drugs may be referred for addiction treatment.
- Opium, 2 grams
- Heroin, 50 milligrams
- Cannabis, 5 grams
- Cocaine, 500 milligrams
- LSD, 0.015 milligrams
- MDA/MDMA/Methamphetamines, 40 milligrams powder or one 200 milligram capsule
For specific cases, please consult an attorney.
This page was last updated January 20, 2021.