Mexico Just Postponed the Legalization of Weed to 2021 Due to COVID

The Supreme Court accepted a last-minute petition to move the deadline for a vote to April next year.
December 10, 2020, 10:14pm
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A man rolls a joint during a rally in support of the legalization of marijuana in Mexico City, on May 4, 2019. Photo by PEDRO PARDO, AFP via Getty Images.

MEXICO CITY - In a disappointing twist for advocates of drug policy reform, Mexico will not legalize cannabis in 2020.

The country’s Supreme Court accepted a formal petition from the Lower House of Congress on December 10, requesting an extension until April 30, 2021, on a looming deadline for a vote on a proposed legalization bill. The court had previously ruled that the legalization bill must be voted on by December 15.

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The petition from the Lower House of Congress claimed that the “complexity of the issues at hand” and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic "has made it difficult for the legislative process to consider with the depth and care that any process of formation and reform of the laws implies." The Supreme Court obliged, also citing COVID as the reason they accepted the petition for postponement.

Cannabis enthusiasts had been optimistic that the bill — while flawed — would pass the various levels of government by the December deadline. In November, Mexico's Senate voted to pass the bill, leaving the Lower House of Congress as the only roadblock to legalization.

“It’s disappointing that the two legislative bodies couldn’t have coordinated better the drafting of this bill in order to ensure that they would have complied with the dates set by the Supreme Court,” said Zara Snapp, a legalization activist and co-founder of the Mexican research and advocacy organization Instituto RIA.

The recent Supreme Court decision is the fourth time that the governing body has allowed the deadline to be extended since ruling in 2018 that the prohibition of the personal use and cultivation of cannabis was unconstitutional.

However, Snapp expressed hope that lawmakers will use the additional time to alter the bill to remove remaining criminal penalties and sanctions, and expand opportunities for communities who have been affected by prohibition. 

“We expect this extension to mean that there will be greater attention to human rights and sustainable development, and not the economic interests of companies,” said Snapp. “We also hope that as they move forward that they will advance quickly and not wait until the last moment, as we have seen them do again and again.”

Mexico's proposed federal cannabis bill, if passed, would turn the country's 130 million citizens into the largest legal weed market in the world. Unfortunately, those interested in buying, selling, and smoking legal weed in Mexico will now have to keep waiting, at least a bit longer.