Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Senate expected to vote this week on marijuana legalization bill

Lawmakers are expected to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by the middle of December but the government institute that will regulate the use and sale of the plant won’t be up and running until 2022.

Miguel Ángel Navarro, a ruling party senator and president of the upper house’s health committee, said the Mexican Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (Imerecca) will begin operations in January 2022.

Until then, an inter-institutional committee will regulate its use and sale, he said.

His remarks came after the Senate’s justice, health and legislative studies committees approved a bill Friday to legalize the sale and recreational use of marijuana.

The bill will now be considered and voted on by all senators, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. If approved, it will be sent to the Chamber of Deputies for its consideration.

The Supreme Court, which ruled last year that laws forbidding the use of marijuana were unconstitutional, has given lawmakers until December 15 to approve legalization legislation.

The bill approved by the Senate committees replaces a draft proposal they passed in March.

It stipulates that people will no longer require a permit to possess up to 28 grams of marijuana for their own personal use and sets out a range of other rules to govern the possession and use of recreational marijuana.

Among them: people will be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants at their home for personal use; fines can be imposed on people in possession of more than 28 grams but fewer than 200 grams of cannabis (more serious charges will apply for possession above 200 grams); people will only be allowed to smoke in their own homes or in the premises of marijuana “associations;” and smoking will be prohibited in front of children, adolescents and adults who have not consented to the use of marijuana in their presence.

The bill also prohibits the participation of children and adolescents in activities related to the planting, growing and harvesting of marijuana plants and bans them from selling and using the plant. Anyone caught involving minors in their cannabis-related activities will face hefty fines.

In addition, the bill –  which if passed will be called the Federal Law for the Regulation of Cannabis – stipulates that the Health Ministry will oversee Imerecca rather than the Interior Ministry as previously proposed.

The proposed law does not set out rules for the medicinal use of marijuana or the industrial use of hemp.

Navarro said that more work needs to be done with regard to planning the structure of Imerecca and determining how it will be funded.

Ricardo Monreal, leader of the ruling Morena party in the Senate, said last month that he expected a law approving the recreational use of marijuana to be approved before the end of November. He said Morena, which leads a coalition with a majority in both houses of Congress, was unlikely to have problems passing the law.

The conservative National Action Party (PAN) is leading the opposition to legalization although Morena Senator Lucy Meza also expressed reservations last week. PAN Senator Damián Zepeda accused the government of succumbing to “political fashion” and urged that the issue be put to a referendum.

Senator Miguel Ángel Mancera, a former Mexico City mayor who is now the leader of the Democratic Revolution Party in the upper house, is one opposition party lawmaker who does support legalization.

He said it will help remove the taboo associated with marijuana use, and asserted that the public needs to understand that the cannabis plant is not representative of drug trafficking and associated problems.

“We have to remove this stigma from the plant,” Mancera said.

Senator Jesusa Rodríguez of Morena said that “stigmatizing the plant has done brutal damage.”

“The idea that [marijuana] is an evil plant remains fixed in the collective unconsciousness. … Leaving marijuana in the hands of the cartels just [allows] it to reach children,” she said.

Source: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp) 

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