Update: As of June 2021, cannabis is legal for private, recreational use in Mexico.
It looks like Mexico will soon become the next country to legalize recreational marijuana, sandwiching the United States between the two largest countries in the world to fully legalize cannabis. What does this mean for Mexico, the United States, and the global cannabis movement?
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North America Leading World Drug Reform
Mexico legalizing recreational marijuana would make it the fourth country in the world to do so at a federal level. Uruguay, Canada and Luxembourg are the first three countries to do so (or for Luxembourg’s case, will be). Other countries such as Spain, Australia and the United States have some states and regions that have legalized, however at a federal level recreational cannabis use still remains illegal.
North America is home to approximately 590 million people, accounting for a bit over 7.5% of the world’s population. Currently of those 590 million people, 130 million live in areas with legal recreational marijuana. 37.5 million of those people in Canada, and 92.5 million in the United States. Mexico legalizing marijuana would more than double the number of people living in legal areas to 262 million.
This would bring the percentage of North American citizens who live in areas with legal recreational cannabis to a whopping 44%. This figure dwarfs the values of Europe and South America who both sit around 1%.
Geographical Pressure for the US
With the US set to be surrounded by countries with legal weed, pressure will only be increasing for the country to legalize at a federal level. What this increased pressure results in however will largely be unknown until the 2020 presidential election is complete.
Texas remains the only US state that borders Mexico to not have legal marijuana of some form. New Mexico and Arizona both have legal medical cannabis, and California has legal medical and recreational cannabis. Currently Texas remains the most geographically West state on the mainland US to not be bordering a state or country with legal recreational marijuana. Of course this doesn’t really mean anything, but is an interesting geographical comparison. Mexico legalizing would mean South Dakota would then become the most Western state.
Mexico’s Changing Marijuana Laws
Recently Mexico has been making strides in their marijuana reforms. In June 2017, the country legalized medical marijuana.
Last year, for the fifth time, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition on marijuana was unconstitutional. This ruling was significant, as five similar rulings from the Supreme Court mean that a new standard is set within the country. Although setting a new standard, this is not yet legally binding. The Supreme Court set a deadline of October 24 2019 to lawmakers, to legalize marijuana. On October 18, 2019, Mexico’s congress revealed their legalization bill. The main points are as follows:
- Buying and possessing cannabis would be legal for people 18 years or older
- The “Cannabis Institute” would provide the regulation to this new industry
- Products infused with cannabis (beverages, edibles etc) would only be legally available to medical marijuana patients
- Consuming marijuana can only be done on private property
- Strict packaging regulation would be in place to deter minors from consuming cannabis
- Preference would be given to small and local businesses for licensing
Mexico’s Missed Marijuana Deadline
The Supreme Court’s initial deadline of October 24 2019 was not met. One of the biggest reasons for this is thought to be big businesses potentially missing out on this new market. With licensing deals being heavily preferenced to local growers, suppliers, and retailers, Mexican lawmakers were aiming to keep as much money from this new industry within their country.
The benefits of this are obvious, however this would also come with a few downsides. Scalability could see huge hurdles to overcome, as smaller businesses could fail to keep up with demand, fueling the black market further.
On November 1, 2019 the Supreme Court of Mexico granted Mexico’s Senate a six month extension for legalization. The new deadline for legalization is April 30 2020. This granted extension was “one time only” as highlighted by the courts. Given it’s a deadline, this new date is the absolute latest that lawmaker’s have to legalize marijuana in Mexico. Of course legalization could happen earlier than this, however current signs point to legalization before 2020 being very unlikely.
Billion Dollar Industry
Recently Mexico has undergone huge economic growth and rejuvenation. Although peaking in 2014, Mexico’s GDP has increased from 900 USD billion to 1223 USD billion over the last decade. Their life expectancy has almost caught up to the US, with the average citizen living 76.1 years compared to the United States 80 years in 2017. This is a huge increase compared to 1960, where Mexico’s life expectancy of 57 was 12.7 years behind the United States.
Mexico still remains a developing country however, so the legal cannabis industry could provide extra tax revenue which could be used within the health, education and transport sectors. An estimate by The Motley Fool predicted Mexico to have the world’s fourth largest cannabis market by 2024.
- United States – $30.1 billion USD
- Canada – $5.18 billion USD
- Germany – $1.35 billion USD
- Mexico – $1.02 billion USD
- United Kingdom – $547 million USD
Mexico Will Have Legal Marijuana
Adult use marijuana in Mexico is a matter of when, not if. The United States being fully surrounded by legal cannabis is a matter of when, not if. The Lone Star State of Texas sharing a border with legal cannabis is a matter of when, not if.
South Dakota Legalization Bill
Globally, the number of people with access to fully legal, recreational marijuana will double when Mexico legalizes. Exciting times are ahead.