On Thursday, November 19th, Mexico’s Senate voted 82-12 in favor of a bill that would legalize marijuana in the country. If this marijuana-legalizing initiative receives the necessary final stamp of approval in the Lower House of Congress come December – President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is confident that it will, as his party currently holds a majority in both chambers of Congress – the country would claim host to the largest domestic legal cannabis market in the world by measure of population. Thus, this landmark legalization bill has been met with great excitement among several corporate weed giants, such as Canada’s Canopy Growth and The Green Organic Dutchman. However, and perhaps more significantly, many have noted the sociological effect of such an enactment, namely from the standpoints of violence-mitigation and lowering incarceration rates.
Since 2006, over 250,000 people in Mexico have died from violence related to the country’s heavy presence of drug-cartels. This plaguing of drug cartels has contributed to the country ranking consistently among the world’s highest in terms of total yearly homicides. Many see marijuana’s legalization in the country as a viable solution to these prevalent, cartel-attributable issues; experts have pointed to how Mexico’s drug cartels rely chiefly on the illegal marijuana industry as a source of fuel. Through legalizing a sector previously under the control of cartels, it is argued that the underground activities of these drug-cartels (which are at the root of this violence) will erode. A large segment of their customers-base would disappear if marijuana-users could purchase the drug without having to resort to the black market.
Another way in which the legalization of marijuana would address an issue of salience in Mexico includes how it would impact Mexico’s prison system. According to the Drug Policy Program of the Center for Economic Research and Education, more than 41% of those incarcerated in Mexican prisons comprise of individuals who were arrested with narcotics valued at less than $25. Decriminalising marijuana would contribute to counteracting the rampancy of charges for these petty crimes, which would by extension, counteract the problem of the overpopulation of Mexico’s prison facilities.
Those in opposition to the bill have voiced fear mainly over recreational use of the drug in public areas and how its legalization could favour large corporations at the expense of family producers and farmers whose livelihoods rest on supplying Mexico’s illegal narcotics trade. But apart from these limited concerns, the legislation appears rather harmless upon review of some aspects surrounding the legislation’s policy design formulated to ensure the drug’s safe and functional use. For example, stipulations contained in the legislation include that driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal, marijuana products for sale would not be able to exceed a rigorously-defined maximum level of psychoactive ingredients, and children would be barred from the drug’s use, cultivation, and sale. When these stipulations are considered against the sociological benefits of legalization already mentioned, it seems as though the net ‘good’ generated through legalization far outweigh the net ‘bad’ effects.
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