The leader of the Mexican state Baja California offered a full-throated endorsement of medical cannabis last week as debate surrounding the issue continues to rankle lawmakers in the country.
Marina del Pilar Avila, who serves as governor of Baja California, told reporters that she is “totally behind the legalization of marijuana as a way to treat chronic illnesses,” as quoted by the news outlet Border Report.
As the outlet noted, currently “the Mexican Senate is debating legalizing the widespread use of pot in Mexico.”
But Avila’s endorsement of the treatment is not shared by other leaders in Baja California.
Norma Bustamante, the mayor of Mexicali, which is the capital city of Baja California, “came out against Avila’s statement” almost immediately, according to Border Report.
“As a public servant, I’m always respectful of the law and as a woman, mother and grandmother of teenagers, I am against the use of drugs including marijuana and even cigarettes,” Bustamante said, as quoted by Border Report.
Adrián Medina Amarillas, who serves as the health secretary of Baja California, begs to differ.
“When the country allows the use of medical marijuana, we’ll be among the first to use it to treat chronic illnesses that don’t respond to conventional treatments among them cancer and Parkinson’s,” Medina said, as quoted by the outlet.
Long a robust producer and exporter of cannabis, Mexico’s marijuana laws are shrouded in ambiguity. As Leafly puts it: “It’s complicated.”
“Marijuana currently exists in a legal flux state in Mexico. It’s not entirely legal, but it’s not entirely illegal either,” Leafly explains. “Medical cannabis is technically legal in Mexico, but there is no legal framework in place to obtain a prescription or prove one’s own legal medical status. Possession of up to 5 grams of cannabis for any purpose, medical or otherwise, has been effectively decriminalized nationwide, although local and federal police often do not respect this status.”
As for recreational pot, possession “of up to 5 grams of cannabis is effectively legal since it was decriminalized federally in 2009, along with limited amounts of a number of other drugs, by authorities seeking to free up resources and separate public health issues from traffic crimes.”
“People found with less than 5 grams of cannabis should, according to the law, be encouraged into free treatment programs, but in reality they are still coerced into paying police bribes to be released from custody. They are generally not prosecuted for personal amounts, though the law states that purchasing and possessing amounts in excess of 5 grams can carry prison sentences of 10 months to 3 years,” Leafly explains.
The uncertain nature of that policy has prompted advocates and lawmakers to call for comprehensive cannabis reform.
In August, Olga Sánchez Cordero, president of the Senate Board of Directors, “urged approval of the reform to regulate cannabis, since she considered that Mexico is lagging behind in the matter compared to Latin America and the world,” according to the Mexican news magazine Proceso.
The magazine reported that, in Sánchez Cordero’s inaugural speech, she “recounted that Senator Margarita Valdez, president of the Upper House Health Committee, held a meeting in which representatives of Latin American countries asked her why Mexico did not regulate everything related to consumption of marijuana.”
“Now Senator Margarita Valdez told me that in a meeting she had, all our South American, Chilean, Argentine, Colombian brothers, in short, asked her when Mexico will take this important step in the regulation of cannabis. In my opinion, and I tell you this with all sincerity, I believe that we are falling behind the world if we do not make progress on this issue,” Sánchez Cordero, as quoted by Proceso.
Additionally, the outlet reported that she “mentioned other issues on the legislative agenda that are relevant and that will be discussed during the next regular session that begins on September 1, such as the National Code of Civil and Family Procedures, consumer protection, issues of a energy and the protection of the human rights of migrants.”