Mexico’s Lower House of Congress authorized Friday the medical and scientific use of marijuana in Mexico by approving the reforms of the Senate to the General Health Law and the Federal Penal Code. As reported by Reuters, the bill passed by a 371-7 vote with 11 abstentions and allows growing marijuana for medicinal or scientific purposes. The legislation now goes to President Enrique Pena Nieto to be signed into law.
“The ruling eliminates the prohibition and criminalization of acts related to the medicinal use of marijuana and its scientific research, and those relating to the production and distribution of the plant for these purposes,” said the Lower House in a statement.
Beginning last year, the Mexican government began to grant some patients permits to import medicinal products made with marijuana. It has also decriminalized the carrying of small quantities of cannabis and issued several permits in order for some people to cultivate and possess it for personal consumption, the report reads.
The Senate gave the approval on December 13, 2016, to allow the medical and scientific use of marijuana in the country, based on the initiative that the Executive presented in April earlier that year.
The Ministry of Health will be in charge of designing public policies that regulate the medicinal use of pharmacological derivatives of marijuana, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, its isomers and stereochemical variants. Also to regulate the investigation and national production of the same, The Washington Post reports.
The reform in the General Health Act involves the elimination of nabilone and hemp variants from the list of substances considered to be hazardous to public health and the pharmacological derivative tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may be marketed, exported and imported only when the products do not contain more than 1% and complying with the requirements established in the sanitary regulation.
Senator Francisco Salvador López Brito, of the conservative National Action Party, welcomed Mexico as one step closer to establishing the therapeutic use of marijuana “for the health of Mexicans.”
The use of cannabis in medicines has successfully helped in some cases in the treatment of diseases, said López Brito, president of the Senate Health Commission, in a statement.
He emphasized that the therapeutic properties of cannabis include help in the area of pain and motor coordination, as well as the benefits of multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and palliative therapy in some cases of cancer and AIDS.
The new law does not change anything to the anti-drug policy of the Mexican government, which launched a military anti-drug campaign in 2006. This strategy brought with it a wave of violence that left more than 177,000 dead and 30,000 missing, according to official figures that do not detail which of these cases are linked to organized crime.
Some voices have been raised to defend the idea that the decriminalization of marijuana would help to reduce the violence of drug trafficking. But the new law, which only allows its medicinal use, “will not change almost anything,” said Raúl Benítez Manau, an expert on security issues at the state-owned National Autonomous University of Mexico.
“Drug trafficking will continue to be the same,” he predicted.
On his side, anti-drug advocate Samuel González agreed that this law is “many miles apart” regarding the fight against organized crime.
“I do not share the simplistic idea that the legalization of drugs will end violence and organized crime,” said the law professor, who advocates more for a fight against impunity and corruption in police.
In the United States, 29 states and Washington DC have laws on the medical use of marijuana, and of these, eight and the capital accept recreational consumption.
Uruguay became the first country in 2013 to pass a law that allows the cultivation of marijuana for self-consumption in the home and the formation of grower clubs to plant cooperatively. Since then, several Latin American countries have advanced similar laws, while Colombia, Chile, and Argentina have passed laws authorizing the cultivation and use of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes.