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Mexico’s Senate Votes to Legalize Medical Cannabis

A bill that would legalize full-strength marijuana for medical purposes in Mexico has passed the Senate and now moves onto the Chamber of Deputies.

The Mexican Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill last week that approves the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Following the 98-7 vote by the Senate, the legislation will now be sent to the lower Chamber of Deputies for consideration. If it passes there, it will become law.

The Senate said in a statement that the measure, proposed by President Enrique Peña-Nieto, allows the Health Department to “design public policies to regulate the medicinal use of this plant and its derivatives.”

The approval of the bill follows a national debate on cannabis policy. Throughout the year, the Mexican government hosted a series of national public debates on whether or not to legalize marijuana. President Peña Nieto proposed legalizing medical marijuana in April and the Mexican government began granting case-by-case permits to patients for the import of cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil products from HempMeds® Mexico last year.

If passed, the new bill will open access to multiple types of cannabis products, including those containing the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The bill would “lay the foundation to establish in our country an industry for the national production of medicine with cannabis,” said Senator Cristina Diaz of Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), according to DW.

The proposed bill would also legalize the buying, selling, importing, and exporting of cannabis products containing concentrations of 1 percent THC or less, as well as the cultivation of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes by pharmaceutical companies and universities.

Medical Marijuana Research

Several lawmakers, advocates, and civil groups argue that the bill doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t allow for individual cannabis cultivation for personal use. Senator Armando Rios Pieter, who supports legalizing all marijuana as a means for combating the country’s brutal drug violence, was one of the seven lawmakers to vote no on the bill.

According to The Independent, Rios Peter acknowledge that the bill would help benefit some patients suffering from chronic pain conditions, but argued that it was a “very small” achievement that didn’t address “the failure of the policy of combating organized crime.”

“To celebrate that we are making a material change on marijuana would be fooling ourselves at this stage of the game,” The Independent quoted Rios Piter as saying.

Senator Miguel Barbosa of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party told DW that the legislation was “well below the expectations of society” regarding the reform of the nation’s cannabis laws.

Others, however, argued that the legislation is a major step forward to providing patients with cannabis that can be beneficial in their treatment efforts.

“It’s been years that we’ve been fighting for acknowledgement and approval and recognition of the medical and therapeutic uses of cannabis, and today we finally have something,” Lisa Sanchez, director of drug policy for Mexico Unido Contra la Delincuencia, told Reuters. She added that the Senate’s approval was “not the end of the road.”

Recreational marijuana continues to be prohibited in Mexico. However, in November 2015, the Supreme Court authorized four individuals to cultivate and consume marijuana for recreational purposes, setting the stage for full legalization.

You can learn about the scientific research examining medical cannabis, as well as more information about Mexico’s cannabis laws, by visiting our education page.