Mexico Legalizes Marijuana? Will Canada’s Historic Decision Make Weed Legal In Mexico?

President Enrique Pena Nieto took a great leap forward on Wednesday towards making weed legal in Mexico. His nation has long struggled with organized crime and the black market’s control of the lucrative illicit drug trade.

Historically, legalization of prohibited drugs has been an effective solution to eradicating, or at the very least hamstringing underworld empires. Through ending prohibition, the Mexican government seeks to transfer control of cannabis from the black market to legitimate enterprise. As a result, the black market would simply not be able to compete in the weed business.

If Mexico legalizes marijuana, this would result in a much-needed blow dealt to the infamous cartels. These organizations continue to wield unprecedented power and influence and undermine the integrity of the Mexican government.

But what is this historic piece of legislation that opens the door for cannabis rights? And will the political establishment be open to making weed legal in Mexico?

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The Mexican Supreme Court’s Landmark Decision

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto gives speech on Marijuana growers in Mexico
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has historically been averse to the idea of marijuana legalization, however, his landmark decision to allow for the cultivation of cannabis represents a positive divergence of opinion (image via ABC)

Wednesday, the Mexican Supreme Court passed a crucial piece of legislation that may ensure that Mexico legalizes marijuana. The government ratified a bill that allows citizens to grow cannabis for recreational use.

While this sounds like legalization in all but name, this decision did not, in fact, make weed legal in Mexico. Consumption of the plant remains prohibited by federal law. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was keen to elucidate this fact.

“This does not mean that you can freely commercialize, consume and legalize the consumption of marijuana,”

The Mexican President added that raids to destroy illegal marijuana farms would continue as business as usual. If you thought Canada’s current cannabis situation was rather odd and ambiguous, Mexico surely has them outdone.

However, this is a powerful step in the right direction and there is a reason to be optimistic that the Pena Nieto administration will continue to move forward rather than backward in the process of making weed legal in Mexico. The president has begun to use the sort of tepid, but promising language that the Trudeau government used before it undertook the process of ending cannabis prohibition.

Recently, President Pena Nieto stated that he was willing to, “open a debate on the best regulations to inhibit drug consumption”. This comes from a president and an administration that has been historically conservative and wary of the idea of liberalizing drug laws.

Clearly, the language being used by Pena Nieto to frame the drug issue leans much more towards the law enforcement side of things, rather than the personal liberties and human rights aspects of the debate. The Trudeau administration used a similar tactic in Canada to sell conservatives on the idea of ending marijuana prohibition.

So how bad is the current cartel situation that it could make the historically cautious Pena Nieto fire the opening salvo to ensure Mexico legalizes Marijuana?

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El Chapo marijuana legalization
One of the most significant effects of making weed legal in Mexico is the ability to take a chunk out of the infamous cartel’s piggy banks (image via New York Post)

Organized crime in Mexico is an incredibly destructive force. It is estimated that there have been 200,000 deaths in the country since Mexico declared war on the cartels in 2006. The most powerful of Mexican Gangs, El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel, makes billions annually from their sophisticated network of trafficking illicit drugs to North America, Asia, and Europe.

Sinaloa, and other cartels like it, have the means and funds to buy or intimidate politicians and police forces. In some regions, these mafias have a greater degree of influence than the government itself.

Cannabis is not the only illicit drug that the cartels deal in. In fact, the Sinaloa and their competitors deal in fentanyl, meth, cocaine and other substances. These pose a far greater risk to the consumer and yield higher profit margins than marijuana. Therefore cartels will undoubtedly continue to thrive if Mexico legalizes Marijuana.

However, making weed legal in Mexico would not be insignificant in the struggle to financially handicap the cartels. The Washington Post estimated that the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado cost the criminal organizations $1.372 billion and $1.425 respectively. Sinaloa was the most significantly impacted by these liberalizations of drug policy.

If Mexico legalizes marijuana, this blow would strike at the cartel’s heart, targeting both their domestic markets and means of production.

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NAFTA and Marijuana: A Match Made in Heaven

Trump and Mexican President shake hands, NAFTA and marijuana
While the Trump administration has been notoriously hostile to the idea of more open borders with Mexico, this might be a profitable endeavor in a post-legalization world (image via Macleans)

Canada and the United States can provide a series of templates for the fateful day when Mexico legalizes marijuana. In each of these nations, the federal governments have given a great degree of freedom to individual provinces and states respectively. Within reason, each region may decide for themselves what sort of cannabis economy they wish to enact.

Therefore, when Mexico legalizes marijuana President Pena Nieto will have a diverse array of economic models to select from. Within the same country templates as diverse as the free market privatization of Alberta and the government-controlled monopoly of Quebec share residence. Mexico would be wise to weigh the costs and benefits of these different cannabis economies and decide which would work best for them.

The possibilities for further establishing more meaningful hemispheric, economic integration through cannabis are infinite. While the Trump administration has been notoriously hostile to the idea of more open borders with Mexico, this might be a profitable endeavor in a post-legalization world. By making weed legal in Mexico, new markets and thus lanes of expansion for Canadian and American licensed producers, distributors and retailers might be opened.

This victory will be two-fold as revenue denied to the cartels through legalization, will translate into tax dollars for Mexico and international commerce opportunities for the NAFTA bloc.


President Pena Nieto has not made weed legal in Mexico just yet, however, the end of prohibition is surely not far away. His government’s unprecedented decision to allow citizens to grow cannabis for recreational use is a logical stepping stone to ensure that Mexico legalizes marijuana. With a limitless potential to aid the economy, law enforcement and civil liberties, the future of Mexico is undoubtedly green.

By: Stefan Hosko
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