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Despite green light from judiciary, legalization of pot stalls in Senate

One snag is that the president said he only supports legalization for medicinal purposes

Legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana has stalled in the Senate less than two months before the end of a Supreme Court (SCJN) deadline to decriminalize and regulate the plant, according to an upper house lawmaker.

Senator Miguel Ángel Mancera, leader of the Democratic Revolution Party in the upper house of Congress, said that there is no consensus between the representatives of the different parties and as a result little progress has been made toward legalization.

“[Legislation for] recreational use is not moving. It’s more difficult than outsourcing,” the former Mexico City mayor said, referring to the congressional battle over outsourcing last year.

In contrast, there is consensus on the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, Mancera said.

One reason for the lack of agreement is that President López Obrador said last week that he only supports legalization of the plant for medicinal purposes.

“We’re not thinking about that kind of measure,” he said at his morning news conference on February 26 in response to a question about the government’s plans to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The government is only planning to legalize marijuana for “medicinal” and “health” purposes, López Obrador said.

The president’s remarks put him at odds with the SCJN, which published eight precedents on the recreational use of marijuana in February 2019 that determined that prohibition of the drug is unconstitutional.

The court initially set an October 31, 2019, deadline for lawmakers to legalize pot but granted the Senate a six-month extension to April 30 after the upper house suspended debate on legalization for a variety of reasons.

Among those given: a lack of agreement between lawmakers of the ruling Morena party, critical observations about the proposed bill by federal government departments and civil society organizations, and pressure from companies that have tried to hasten the legislative process.

López Obrador’s lack of support for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use further complicates the passage of legislation through the Senate, especially considering that the ruling Morena party leads a coalition with a clear majority in the upper house.

Despite the president’s opposition, Morena upper house leader Ricardo Monreal said that he was confident a draft bill for the legalization of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes will be approved by Senate committees, paving the way for its consideration by all senators.

Legal marijuana would likely generate significant tax revenue for the government, and the Mexican Medicinal Marijuana Association says that Mexico could become the biggest medicinal marijuana producer in the world in five years if the government gives the green light for the cultivation of the plant.

Sales of legal marijuana could generate close to US $1 billion annually in tax revenue, according to one Morena party senator.

The National Association for the Cannabis Industry predicted in September that legal marijuana will bring enormous economic benefits to industry and medicine. It estimated that the number of recreational consumers of marijuana could reach 7.2 million people, who could generate annual sales of as much as $5 billion.

Source: El Financiero (sp) 

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