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How Mexico’s Recent Cannabis Laws Impact The United States

After recent debates regarding a contentious bill designed to legalize recreational marijuana stagnated in the Mexican Congress, the country’s Supreme Court took matters into its own hands by voting to decriminalize marijuana. This serves as a massive hit for Central American cannabis activists and will hopefully help to reduce the number of lives impacted by the War On Drugs.

Now that our neighbors to the south have made this monumental decision, how will it impact policy in the United States? Will cannabis tourism move from the West Coast further south? 

Decriminalizing Marijuana In Mexico

In 2021, Mexican lawmakers made some serious progress at ending cannabis prohibition. In March of this year, Mexico’s lower house voted to approve a bill that would have legalized recreational cannabis by declaring prohibition unconstitutional, with an overwhelming majority of 316 - 219.

After approving the bill on general terms, legislators then began the process of revising a final draft that would be sent on to the senate, and eventually President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Both the upper house and President signaled their support for the bill, and pundits anticipated it would pass with relative ease. However, revisions were not complete by the end of the legislative session, and congress did not request an extension. 

With the future of the bill unclear, certain lawmakers suggested holding a special session that would take place after the June elections. As it turns out however, this special session was not needed. On June 10th, the Mexican Supreme Court listed the “Declaration of Unconstitutionality” on their docket, indicating that the court would decide the future of cannabis in the country. Eight days later, the court decisively voted to uphold congress’ decision that cannabis prohibition violated the Mexican Constitution with a vote of 8 - 3. 

What’s This Mean For United States Citizens

So now that cannabis is legal down south, can you bring medical cannabis into Mexico from the USA? We would not recommend it. Taking edibles on an airplane to Mexico would likely land you in trouble with both country’s governments. This may also depend on where your bud gets discovered. 

While it’s true that many places in the United States have legalized marijuana, it is still considered illegal by the federal government. Since airports and TSA require passengers to abide by federal law rather than state-specific law and may report you to the police. If this happens in a state where marijuana is currently legal, you likely won’t suffer any serious repercussions. However, there is no guarantee, and it’s up to you to determine if it’s worth the risk. 

On the Mexican side of things, the reforms are still so fresh that it’s unclear what practical effect they have in actuality. So far, the courts have determined that banning the cultivation and consumption of cannabis does violate the constitution. That being said they’ve yet to remove any criminal penalties for doing so.

In an interview with NPR, a resident of Mexico City named Sergio Valenti spoke to reporter Carrie Khan while rolling a joint. “For me, it's like it's still not legal. Nothing is legal yet," Valenti stated. 

Will This Impact North American Legislation? 

It is still unclear how Mexico’s new policy will impact the United States. This will likely serve as a means to pressure the federal government into reexamining its cannabis prohibition laws. The United States is now surrounded on all sides by weed legal countries since the Trudeau administration in Canada legalized recreational use two years ago.

As we witness in real-time how our neighbors to the north and south can make a big impact in a short amount of time, we wait for our turn. If our neighbors can bring down incarceration rates, increase tax revenue, and make for happy and healthier citizens by legalizing cannabis, the arguments for prohibition will seem even more ridiculous than they do now.  

Many states have already set up their own legal marijuana markets, and according to the Pew Research Center, over two-thirds of Americans support legalization. It’s only a matter of time before the Federal Government catches up.