On Tuesday, Mexico’s Senate overwhelmingly approved an initiative that authorizes the use of medical marijuana, the latest in a series of legal changes and court rulings that have relaxed laws on cannabis use in Mexico.
The initiative also instructs the Health Secretariat to “design public policies to regulate the medicinal use of this plant and its derivatives,” the upper house said in a statement in which it summarized the debate. The initiative will be sent to the Chamber of Deputies for consideration.
Senator Cristina Díaz Salazar of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) said the measure will address the urgent needs of Mexicans who can not access cannabis-based medicines. She called it “a historical step.”
Some lawmakers argued that the bill does not go far enough because it does not address individual marijuana cultivation; other narcotics, such as opium paste and poppy; or broader issues, like the war on drugs.
Senator Armando Ríos Piter (PRD) voted “no.” He acknowledged that the legislation would benefit patients with some chronic diseases, but considered it a small achievement that fails to address “the failure of policy to combat organized crime.”
In the decade since then-President Felipe Calderón launched a military offensive against drug cartels in Mexico, more than 100,000 people have died and about 30,000 more have disappeared.
Since last year, the Mexican government has begun granting permits authorizing some patients to import medical marijuana products. It has also decriminalized the consumption of small amounts of weed and issued several permits for people to grow it for personal consumption.
However, such permits have only addressed specific individuals already involved and are not laws applicable to all of Mexican society.
According to the bill, the cultivation of marijuana plants for medical and scientific use will also be authorized. It legalizes the purchase, sale, import and export of products containing 1 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive substance in cannabis.
The initiative had 98 votes in favor, seven against and one abstention.