On April 30, Mexico's Congress failed to pass adult-use legalization orders that were handed down by five Supreme Court rulings. The latest development marks the fourth time the deadline has not been met.
The decision puts the future of cannabis legalization into an uncertain area in Mexico as operators, advocates and lawmakers await the next steps.
Government Stalls Legislation Once Again
In the past, the COVID-19 pandemic and disputes over the bill derailed the various processes.
This time around was more of the latter. Blame appears to be centered on changes in the bill between congressional chambers, the Senate and the House of Deputies.
A primary sticking point focused on overseeing the licensing and rollout of the cannabis program.
Zara Snapp, the co-founder of drug policy group Instituto RIA, believes the upcoming June 6 legislative elections also played a part.
"Obviously, there's a concern about how passing this law might affect those outcomes," Snapp said.
With 500 deputy positions up for grabs in the house, most don't expect much forward movement before the results are determined.
Raul Elizalde, president of HempMeds Latin America, a subsidiary of Medical Marijuana, Inc. MJNA, agreed.
"Government will not try to do anything because there's an election, and they think cannabis will affect the decision of some voters," Elizalde said.
Possible Next Steps
With June elections around the corner, the question of cannabis legalization seems to be on the back burner for the time being.
Luis Armendáriz, a Mexican attorney and head of the global practice group at Hoban Law Group, agrees that the elections will determine the composition of the bill.
"If the bill stalls, there's a chance that we can see legislative or regulatory activity with respect to specific industry sectors, such as food supplements, cosmetics or even industrial hemp," Armendáriz said.
He said there was a minor possibility that the Senate leadership would call for the bill to be discussed during an extraordinary legislative session.
Other possibilities could see the Supreme Court weighing in once again. With eight votes required, the Supreme Court could make a declaration on the constitutionality of cannabis.
Snapp has her doubts. Even if the votes are possible, that route could provoke further issues, she said.
"On one hand, it's unlikely that we would reach the eight votes needed, and on the other hand, that would simply eliminate the five articles in the general health law," Snapp said.
She added that this route might also fail to create the regulated market or the rights necessary for cannabis consumers.
"We don't believe that this is the best scenario, but rather that legislators need to create the regulatory model for Mexico," Snapp stated.
Elizalde said companies should consider HempMeds' route and sue.
"We are trying to push this through the court system because, right now, we know that cannabis is not illegal," said Elizalde, calling the courts "the only way at this moment if the law is not changing."
While much remains uncertain about Mexico's legalization timeline, one thing is sure: waiting.
"We will wait for the fourth time," said Jorge Escalona, a cannabis consultant and co-founder of Nabis Group. The next legislative session begins in September and ends in December.
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