2021 has already been a big year for cannabis in Mexico. The government released regulations for their medical marijuana program in January, kickstarting the long-awaited process of bringing medical cannabis products to the eager market. And just weeks ago, the Mexican Supreme Court voted to decriminalize recreational cannabis use.
But cannabis law in Mexico is still hazy, and failing to understand it can put tourists at serious risk. We broke down what you need to know before using cannabis South of the Border.
These laws only apply to the use of cannabis inside the country. Bringing cannabis of any amount or any kind – recreational or medical – across the border into Mexico is considered international drug trafficking, and can lead to arrest.
Possession and use of up to 28 grams of recreational cannabis by persons 18 and older is not a crime
Mexico voted to decriminalize the use of up to 28 grams of cannabis this June, effectively making recreational cannabis legal for “auto-consumption” (i.e. growing and harvesting your own cannabis plants.) But don’t get too excited.
Auto-consumption may be decriminalized, but recreational sales remain illegal, and the government has yet to issue guidelines for how growers are to access the requisite seeds otherwise.
Also, recreational cannabis use is only legal with a permit. If you want to grow your own weed, you must first send an application to Cofepris (Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk), Mexico’s version of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In other words, small amounts of recreational marijuana are legal in theory right now, but it may be a while before you can put that theory put into practice.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Mexico since 2017, but the government took its time setting up the regulatory framework to make it accessible. It wasn’t until January, 2021, that the Secretary of Health published regulations for Mexico’s medical marijuana program and legal pathways were finally established for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients.
Now, those who wish to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes or research can apply for a permit issued by SENASA (the National Service for Agrifood Health and Quality.) Doctors looking to prescribe medical cannabis can register to do so with Cofepris. You can also apply for a permit to import and export medical marijuana to and from the country.
If you’re traveling to Mexico this summer, one thing you can count on finding upon arrival is CBD.
CBD products containing less than 1% THC are fully legal in Mexico, and have similar health benefits to marijuana (such as reducing stress and pain) without the psychoactive effects. CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC in most U.S. states. So, if you’re looking for a healthy way to wind down on vacation, CBD may be your new best friend.
Of course, CBD law in Mexico is more complicated than it is in the U.S. Only government-approved CBD products are legal for purchase, so be sure to do your research before purchasing. Most CBD products in Mexico come in the form of supplements and can be found in special CBD stores.
In 2018, the Mexican Supreme Court declared the prohibition of personal use, possession, and private cultivation of cannabis unconstitutional, stating that it violated the fundamental human right to “the free development of the personality” (think of it as the right to the “pursuit of happiness” enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.) So began the long battle for the full legalization of recreational cannabis in the country.
The Mexican Supreme Court ordered the Ministry of Health to publish guidelines for medicinal cannabis use within 180 days after the 2018 ruling, and Mexican legislators began creating a bill to legalize recreational cannabis production and sales soon after. But the deadline to pass the bill was pushed back several times, most recently to April 30th, 2021. As of now, no new deadline has been scheduled.
Even so, the fact that cannabis was declared a fundamental human right in Mexico is proving hard to ignore. Ever since Mexico’s Supreme Court declared prohibition unconstitutional, possession of the product has essentially been legal in effect, though not in legislation. If legalized, recreational cannabis sales would provide a significant boost to Mexico’s economy and reduce drug-related crime, issues that are especially pressing as the country recovers from COVID-19.
Elissa Esher is Assistant Editor at GreenState. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Guardian, Brooklyn Paper, Religion Unplugged, and Iridescent Women. Send inquiries and tips to email@example.com.