Mexico’s lower house of Congress on Wednesday approved a bill that would decriminalise cannabis for recreational, medical and scientific uses, bringing the country of 130 million a step closer to becoming one of the world’s largest markets for the plant.
Backed by the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the bill marks a major shift in a country torn apart for years by violence between feuding drug cartels.
Lawmakers approved the bill with 316 votes in favour and 127 against. Now, the upper house, the Senate, needs to review and approve the bill.
If passed, the law would create a huge market, which foreign companies are eager to tap, says Reuters.
The bill would allow five types of licence for the cultivation, transformation, sale, research and export or import of marijuana.
Only people 18 years and older, and with a permit, would be legally able to grow, carry or consume marijuana and its derivatives.
“Today we are making history,” said Simey Olvera, a lawmaker from Lopez Obrador’s ruling Morena party who was wearing a mask with marijuana leaves printed on it. “With this, the false belief that cannabis forms part of Mexico’s serious health problems is left behind.”
Lopez Obrador, whose ruling Morena party has a majority in both chambers of Congress, has argued that decriminalising cannabis and other narcotics could help combat Mexico’s powerful and destructive drug cartels.
If the bill passes, the US will see both neighbours with legal use, as in 2018 Canada also legalised marijuana, including for recreational use.
Further south, Latin America has led the world in legalising cannabis. In late 2013, Uruguay became the first ever country to legalise the production and sale of marijuana. Other countries in the region, such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru, allow its medical use.
In the US, such regulation is largely left to individual states to decide and several have made the drug legal.