Mexico‘s Senate will vote for a bill to fully legalise marijuana in the next few days, a key lawmaker told Reuters, marking a major step towards changing the country’s approach to the drug by removing it as a source of income for violent drug gangs.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the president and leftist critic of Mexico’s longstanding drug war, has since last year signalled his openness to the decriminalisation of marijuana as part of a broader shift on security policy.
Senator Ricardo Monreal, the leader of Mr Lopez Obrador’s MORENA party in the upper chamber of congress, said in an interview late on Monday that a vote on the proposal will take place later this week or next week.
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“The end of the prohibitionist policy is good for the country,” he said, adding that the bill would regulate personal use and sale of marijuana as well as research into the plant. It also contemplates creation of cooperatives that would grow marijuana plus a new regulatory agency.
If approved by the Senate, the proposal would then proceed to the lower house for a vote.
MORENA and its allies hold majorities in both chambers.
Late last year, the Supreme Court said lawmakers have until 24 October to legalise marijuana, after the high court ruled in several cases that the prohibition of the recreational use of the drug violates the constitution.
Under Mexican law, if the Supreme Court issues the same decision five times, the rulings set a precedent and the court can then order the establishment of a regulatory framework as well as further legal action.
While the leader of MORENA in the lower house, Mario Delgado, has proposed that the government tightly administer a future marijuana market, Mr Monreal was noncommittal.
“There are some (proposals) that would establish a type of state-run monopoly … but we want to leave it more open,” he said.
The lawyer also left open the possibility that the legislation could be put on hold if a public referendum on legalising marijuana sought by Mr Lopez Obrador were to be authorised first.
“We will know in the next few days if we’re able to build a (legislative) consensus or if we wait for the referendum,” he said.
The legislative leader emphasised that “many companies” have approached him and expressed their interest in the proposal, following similar initiatives in several US states, including California, as well as Canada.