Since there is way more information than I thought, I’m going to break this into two parts. In this article we are going to be talking about recreational and medical marijuana (cannabis) in Mexico. First we will talk about recreational – is it legal? If so, what does this mean? Then we will follow with the medical and try and determine if the rules are as clearly defined and enforced as they are in Canada, its neighbor to the far north.
In Part 2, we will talk about Canada and the new legislation legalizing recreational marijuana including such topics as possession limits, protecting our youth, health safety, responsibilities, education, criminal activities and penalties, and existing medical marijuana laws, and the impact these changes have on medical marijuana.
There are three reasons why I am interested in knowing about medical and recreational marijuana in Mexico: (1) I already have a Medical Marijuana License (albeit from another country – Canada to be specific), (2) I happen to be in Mexico for six months and missing my stuff! and (3) Canada has now legalized recreational marijuana so I am interested in knowing what is happening here, in Mexico.
A Surprising Response
In our innocent quest to find out if we could obtain medical marijuana here, we might have ruffled a feather – or two. We have already been in Mexico a month and a half and no one is saying anything – about marijuana or CBD, Of course, maybe we just haven’t met the right people yet!
We saw a store advertising what “looked” like marijuana products so decided to shoot them a facebook message telling them we were visiting from Canada, and asked if indeed they did sell marijuana (specifically for medical purposes).
This was the answer we received (Spanish translation):
“We remind you that until now there are NO LEGAL DISPENSERS IN MEXICO, the sale, purchase and acquisition of cannabis is a FEDERAL CRIME and we do not support any type of illegal act and we will always be attached to the law.
We ask you to please avoid sending us these types of messages, thank you.
We are a TOBACCO. Unfortunately, these types of permits are only valid and exclusive in Canada. Not in Mexico. Good afternoon!”
So there was definitely no room for misunderstanding in this response! (By the way, all the words that were capitalized are the way the individual wrote it.)
So now I was on a mission and decided to contact the Mexican Government. I did my Google search and found the website and looked up who was involved with Health matters. So off another email went. This time it was kindly suggested that we contact the Mexican Embassy in Canada and I was provided with a phone number and address in Ottawa Canada.
You guessed it – my next email. Still waiting!
In the meantime, let’s move forward. I decided to do more searching.
On August 21, 2009, Mexico decriminalized the possession of small amounts of personal cannabis and other drugs such as cocaine and heroin in order to lower illegal drug activity. Maximum amounts were set up to 5 grams which would be considered ‘personal use;” anyone caught with up to that amount would be encouraged to seek treatment instead of doing jail time.
On November 15, 2015 the Supreme Court made a ruling in favour of four individuals from the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use (Smart) who were allowed to grow and smoke their own marijuana. Although no laws were changed, this ruling could pave the way regarding future legal actions. The Supreme Court made this decision saying that prohibiting people from growing marijuana for personal use was unconstitutional.
In 2017 marijuana because legal for medical use but more on that later.
Present Day Ruling
Based on two court rulings, Mexico’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, October 31 of this year, legalized marijuana for non-commercial adult use citing that an absolute ban on recreational use of marijuana was unconstitutional and has given the green light for growing marijuana.
The ruling stated that this right isn’t absolute and it is possible to regulate consumption, however, one shouldn’t be prohibited from consuming marijuana due to the results as there is not enough justification to do so.
In addition to these two court rulings there were three similar ones between 2015 and 2017 making this the fifth time that Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled in favour of recreational marijuana. This sets a precedent other Mexican courts will have to follow.
So, is recreational Marijuana legal in Mexico? Technically, not quite. The Supreme Court mandates the courts must allow recreational use (not for sale or commercial), possession and growing but no laws had been changed by the legislature. However, it is felt that any cases brought before the court should be favourable for the defendant.
Unfortunately, individuals can still be arrested, charged and fined.
Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance said: “This is extraordinary as a result of this happening in a country that has suffered the most from drug wars. Now that marijuana is legal in Canada, it will be make the Federal government’s prohibition even more untenable.”
The next step in the legalization process for personal purposes is for the Supreme Court to inform Congress within 90 days that prohibiting such use is unconstitutional. Then Congress, in turn, would reform the laws the Supreme Court finds unconstitutional. If Congress does not act within that time frame, adults prosecuted can apply for protection from the judicial system.
Most feel this is a stepping stone to recreational marijuana being legalized in Mexico. Canada and Uruguay have already done it; if Mexico decides to follow suit, it would be the third.
A Little Bit About Medical Marijuana
In 2015, an eight year old girl, Graciela Elizaide, was suffering from a severe form of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. After a Supreme Court Ruling allowing CBD cannabis to be imported, she became the first Mexican medical marijuana patient. CBD not only reduced her seizures significantly but her quality of life became better.
In 2017 President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a decree legalizing medical marijuana; the Mexico City constitution went into effect in September of 2016. Although pharmacological derivatives of cannabis such as oils and pills is legal in Mexico, THC content is limited to 1% (anything above this level would require special government approval).
In Mexico’s medical cannabis program, it is not a requirement for patients to use medical cannabis cards. Instead of patients paying an application fee and import cost for medical cannabis, Mexico accepts submissions from companies interested in importing the medicine, which pharmacies can then sell – thus only a GP prescription is needed.
The government stands firm that it is still illegal to cultivate marijuana. According to the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Health Risks (COFEPRIS), medical marijuana must come from a pharmacy that has been authorized by COFEPRIS.
RHSO-X is a cannabis-based oil made by Hemp Meds Mexico (which is owned by Medical Marijuana Inc.) and was the first product of this kind to be legalized for importation to Mexico. Currently, this is the only company that has imported these products for medical use in Mexico.
COFEPRIS predicts that medical cannabis stores are unlikely to open until sometime in 2019 and that regulations are expected to bar selling smokable cannabis in the stores.
It is generally felt that with the latest ruling by the Supreme Court on October 31, 2018 and the previous three court rulings in 2015, the way is being paved to legalize recreational marijuana.
As for medical marijuana, according to the The Latam Cannabis Report, to date Mexico has granted only 308 permits for hemp-based CBD products to be imported for patients from Europe, Canada, and Israel.
Personally, I too think it will only be a matter of time before it (recreational) is legalized in Mexico, especially with recent legalization in Canada. As for medical, whether the limitation of 1% of THC is increased, that remains to be seen.
Side Note: As I was finishing this article, I received an email from the Mexican Embassy to Canada in reply to my query about obtaining Medical Marijuana. As mentioned earlier, I made it very clear that I was not bringing drugs in, only that I was interested to know if a visitor would be able to obtain medical marijuana or a temporary license. Their brief reply was:
“Marijuana is not permitted in any of its forms in Mexico.” Short and sweet!
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a legal or medical endorsement. It is up to you to make sure using recreational or medical marijuana is legal in your area of residence.