Is Weed Legal in Mexico?
Mexico legalized medical cannabis in June 2017, but the restrictive measure only allowed the use of imported cannabis derivatives with low-THC content, and medical products are still not readily available to patients.
Adult-use cannabis has not been fully legalized in Mexico, but possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use was decriminalized in 2009. The country has continued to inch closer toward full-scale legalization, but possession and use of recreational marijuana remains illegal as of August 2019.
Mexico has had a long and complicated relationship with cannabis throughout its history. Although 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 U.S. 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 peasant marijuana farmers. With U.S. 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 early rulings have found the absolute prohibition laws for medical marijuana use were unconstitutional, as they did not protect the right to health.
In October 2018, the high court expanded its rulings to include recreational marijuana, arguing that the prohibition violated free expression. The latest ruling is the fifth by the court on the issue, making it binding on all courts in the country. While recreational cannabis remains illegal, the court’s decision could help create a possible roadmap for eventual legislation to clarify Mexico’s marijuana laws and construct a legal cannabis market.
to Be to Consume?
In the wake of decisions in October 2018 by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) to strike down the country’s prohibition on recreational marijuana, Mexico may be on the doorstep of joining Canada and Uruguay as the third Western Hemisphere country to legalize all uses of cannabis nationally. However, despite the high court’s decision, recreational marijuana is not legal to possess or use, as prohibitions remain while Congress considers how to draft updated Mexico marijuana laws and regulations.
A measure legalizing medical use of marijuana and its derivatives, but only products with less than 1 percent THC, was signed by former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in June 2017. However, the regulations have yet to be enacted. Personal possession of up to 5 grams, or 0.18 ounces, was decriminalized in 2009. Commercial sales of cannabis remain illegal.
Medical Marijuana in Mexico
A law allowing the use of medical cannabis was signed in June 2017. Although the use of imported cannabis derivatives with low-THC content is allowed, products are still not readily available in pharmacies.
The government must first produce a framework of regulations for the distribution, manufacturing, potency, qualifying conditions, and patient requirements to receive legal marijuana for medical use. Currently, only one company exports cannabis to Mexico, and commercial cultivation within the country is illegal.
The Mexican Ministry of Health will oversee the country’s medical marijuana program. Mexico began issuing medical marijuana identification cards in 2015. Regulations were intended to be in place by early 2018 but were delayed by the 2018 elections.
On Aug. 14, 2019, Mexico’s Supreme Court ordered the Mexican Health Ministry to issue regulations for marijuana within six months, saying that the ministry’s failure to put regulations in place since legalization in June 2017 has put medical patients including children at risk, Reuters reported.
Once the anticipated Mexico marijuana laws and regulations are in effect, medical marijuana use will require a recommendation from a doctor and could be available through pharmacies, rather than dispensaries.
This page was last updated on August 15, 2019.