Mexico Approves Medical Marijuana Program

In a sign that Mexico is ready to move on from the drug war, a bill passed on Friday that would create a new medical marijuana program for the nation.

“This is a step in the right direction of exploring new alternatives of regulated, legalized and supervised use, and can open up a new front for authorities to combat addictions and the violence that arises from the illicit activities of drug growing, trafficking and consumption.”

said Rep. Arturo Alvarez of the Green Party.

Over the past several years, Mexico’s government has been approving the cultivation and import of medical marijuana on an individual basis, but the new bill would legalize medical marijuana nationally. According to the bill, smoking marijuana is prohibited, but it orders the Health Department to “design public policies to regulate the medicinal use of this plant and its derivatives.” Cultivation will be allowed, and all manufactured products would be required to contain one percent of THC or less.

The bill has passed the House and Senate, and it’s anticipated that President Enrique Pena Nieto will sign it. He previously opposed legalization, but within the last few years, he’s spoken publicly of the importance of parallel drug policies between Mexico and the United States. Pena Nieto has also attempted to decriminalize marijuana, and has spoken of the importance of treating drug use as a “public health problem.”

Illicit drug use is still a concern in Mexico, a country that has been particularly affected by violence from the illegal drug trade. But Rep. Rosa Alba Ramirez of the small Citizens’ Movement party insisted that “this is not opening the door for a general and unchecked consumption because it includes measures so the health department can ensure it is not being abused or distorted to widen it to recreational use.”

The bill passed 374-7, while 11 abstained.

While drugs are still crossing the border from Mexico to the United States, it’s estimated that marijuana only accounts for 15-26 percent of those drugs. The black market demand for marijuana has decreased with legalization, forcing drug cartels to focus on other substances like cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, all of which are still in high demand in America.

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