Cannabis is the most consumed illegal drug by the youngest population. Although it is a substance considered illegal, in many countries the possession of a small amount for own consumption or medical purposes, or consumption in certain clubs and regularized associations, is allowed.

Some countries have decided to legalize cannabis, while others are in the process of doing so for different reasons. In this article we will look at one of these cases, namely the legalization of marijuana in Mexico .

Cannabis and Marijuana

Cannabis is a substance derived from one of several different varieties of the cannabis plant, the most common and well-known being cannabis sativa.

This substance has a psychoactive effect, producing alterations in the functionality of the nervous system and altering its biochemistry. Specifically, it belongs to the group of psychodisleptics or disturbers, which have an effect modifying the activity of the brain and can produce perceptual alterations.

The most common form in which cannabis is presented is marijuana, the product that results from cutting up the leaves and stems of the plant . It is usually consumed in a smoked form, sprinkled on food or in the form of an infusion.

Cannabis, both in its marijuana form and in other presentations, often initially produces a sense of well-being and euphoria and then goes on to produce a state of relaxation that is capable of even reducing a person’s pain level, having an analgesic effect. It also affects the motor and digestive systems, facilitating hunger, making it difficult to vomit and helping to prevent tremors and convulsions.

All these properties mean that it has been used since ancient times for the treatment of numerous ailments , although nowadays most of its consumers use it recreationally. This has meant that different countries have reacted in different ways to its use in different areas, from allowing its use to sanctioning and banning it.

The situation in Mexico

Mexico’s position on the use of cannabis and marijuana has traditionally been against their use . Thus, cannabis was a prohibited substance, its possession beyond five grams and its application in different areas, including therapeutic use, were sanctioned.

Recently, however, the country is experiencing a change in that opinion. During the past year, Mexican President Enrique Peña proposed before the Senate an initiative to reform the General Health Law in which he proposed the acceptance of the therapeutic use of marijuana.

This amendment was proposed from the perspective of the need to move from one of prohibition and criminalisation, which ultimately leaves the use of cannabis in the hands of organised crime and a market that flourishes without control, to a situation that seeks to regularise the situation of that substance and can serve as a mechanism for prevention and control.

At least initially, it is proposed that legal access be made from authorized pharmacies that would have permission to import medicines made on this basis.

Reasons given for legalization

The proposed initiative was based and born from the reflection on multiple aspects, some of which we relate below.

Medical benefits of drugs based on this substance

The therapeutic use of marijuana has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the symptoms of various disorders.

In some cases where judges have authorized its use, they have allowed the reduction of seizures in epileptic subjects, severe tremors in cases of Parkinson’s, or the pains typical of various diseases such as cancer. About forty disorders could benefit from this type of treatment.

However, its effectiveness as a medicinal product has not yet been conclusively demonstrated, as a balance has to be struck between possible positive effects and undesirable side effects, which is complicated by the fact that consumption of this plant has been associated with a higher risk of psychotic breaks.

Ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice in favor of the Mexican Society for Tolerant and Responsible Self-Consumption (SMART)

In some cases the judicial system has ruled in favour of the medical and even recreational use of cannabis , as happened when the Supreme Court of Justice allowed its use to the SMART association.

Social insecurity due to organized crime around drug trafficking

For years, Mexico has been engaged in a tough fight against organized crime and drug trafficking, resulting in a large number of crimes and deaths and a high level of insecurity for its population.

The approval of this proposal would serve to legalize consumption and improve control over a controversial element, diminishing the power of those who traffic in this substance.

Changes in neighbouring countries

The different regions bordering the Central American country have been developing diverse policies that affect the country’s situation and the fight against drug trafficking.

For example, in the United States, the states of Colorado, Washington and California have passed laws allowing the recreational use of marijuana. This causes Mexico to have to react with similar policies , or else the power of the different drug cartels could increase as they have more possibilities to traffic with neighboring countries.

Proposed changes to legislation

The proposed initiative included a number of changes to the legislation that would allow the clinical use of marijuana. Specifically, the following are highlighted.

Firstly, the core of the proposal was aimed at allowing the therapeutic and scientific use of marijuana. To this end, the intention is to authorise research with marijuana and its active ingredients.

A second point to highlight is the authorization of the use of medicines based on marijuana and its active ingredients , whether they are imported or if in the future domestically produced medicines are developed and marketed.

Finally, it is intended to extend to 28 grams the limit on the amount that is allowed to be possessed, with this change being retroactive so that those prisoners imprisoned for possessions greater than the original 5g are released.

This last change seeks to stop the pursuit of consumption, having effects on the recreational use of the substance.

Final result

The vote in the Senate would result in 98 votes in favor and 7 against the proposal to authorize the medical and scientific use of cannabis.

However, other proposals such as the increase to 28 grams with respect to the permitted quantity and the possibility of legalizing self-cultivation were postponed until a more complete analysis could be made of their possible effects.