Mexico legalization and cartels
Mexico legalization and cartels

What Happened to Mexico's Marijuana Market and What Do Cartels Think about Cannabis Legalization Now

Wasn't Mexico about to legalize weed a few months ago?

Posted by:
Reginald Reefer on Friday Mar 3, 2023

mexico cannabis legalization

What happened to Mexico’s Marijuana Market & why the Cartels are Interested in Legalization


As we all know, Mexico has been a hotbed of drug-related violence and corruption for decades, with powerful cartels controlling much of the country's illicit drug trade.


But what about cannabis legalization? Well, that's a whole other story. While many had hoped that Mexico would follow in the footsteps of its northern neighbor and legalize cannabis, the reality is that legalization seems to have fallen off the map.


So, what happened? Why has there been a deafening silence on the topic of cannabis legalization in Mexico? Was it just a pipe dream? Or have other forces at play put a stop to progress on this front?


But, as is often the case with drug policy, things are never quite as straightforward as they seem. While the government may have dragged its feet on cannabis legalization, that doesn't mean that cannabis use has come to a halt in Mexico. In fact, far from it.


In the absence of legal cannabis, activists have taken matters into their own hands, setting up makeshift cannabis dispensaries and cultivating their own crops. And while these activists are certainly making strides in the fight for cannabis legalization, they're not the only ones interested in the lucrative potential of legal cannabis in Mexico.


That's right, partner, the cartels have their sights set on the legal cannabis market in Mexico. With their fingers already in the proverbial pie when it comes to the illicit drug trade, it's not hard to see why they'd be interested in branching out into legal cannabis.


So, buckle up, folks, because we're about to take a wild ride through the complex and often-confusing world of drug policy in Mexico. We'll be exploring everything from the government's lack of progress on cannabis legalization to the rise of the activist movement and the growing interest of the cartels in legal cannabis. 


It's a wild ride, but one that's sure to shed some light on the ongoing struggle for drug policy reform in Mexico.


A Short Timeline of Mexico Cannabis Legalization


Let's take a trip down memory lane and check out the history of recreational marijuana use in Mexico. In the early 16th century, those Spaniards introduced marijuana to Mexico through hemp, using it to make ropes and textiles. But when the subsidies from the Spanish vanished after the Mexican War of Independence, the production of marijuana fell to its lowest point.


Academic research studies have shown that the Mexican people have used marijuana for ritual and divination purposes for a long time. They used it for recreational purposes along with pain cures, and it was freely used by people until 1898. But then, in 1882, a military hospital banned its use for recreational purposes because of the problems associated with it, including violence, crimes, and disorders.


Things took a turn for the worse when in 1920, Mexican law prohibited the sale, purchase, production, and use of recreational marijuana, and Mexico completely banned the export of weed in 1927. Then the US government launched a controversial program during the 1970s to eradicate the production of weed and poppy fields in Mexico, using helicopters and other tools to spray paraquat on cannabis fields, which contaminates marijuana and other herbs.


But don't worry, friends! In August 2009, Mexico-marijuana lawmakers established a law that allowed the possession of small amounts of cannabis. The government decriminalized marijuana to reduce illegal drug activity and allowed five grams of cannabis for personal consumption. They even advised people caught possessing five grams of cannabis to seek a drug rehabilitation center instead of sending them to prison.


In 2015, the court voted 4-1 that prohibiting the production of cannabis was unconstitutional as it is against human rights. The supreme court allowed four individuals from the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use (SMART) to produce and consume cannabis. In 2017, president Enrique Peña Nieto signed a law to allow medical cannabis with less than one percent THC.


Fast forward to 2021, when the lower house of the Mexican Congress legalized the recreational use of cannabis in a 316-to-219 vote. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador supported the marijuana legalization bill, and it has been expected that legislation will be passed through the Senate before reaching the president. The supreme court has allowed personal possession, but Congress has not made rules about the personal use of cannabis in Mexico yet. But the bottom line is that cannabis is legal in Mexico according to the June 2021 supreme court ruling. The supreme court legalized adult-use cannabis by 8-3 votes, as the prohibition of personal use of cannabis was unconstitutional. 


However, that’s where this story ends for us…we can sadly go no further. Because as we mentioned, there hasn’t been much movement on the legality of cannabis in Mexico. 


Nonetheless, there are other people still part of the cannabis industry…players that have benefited from prohibition are beginning to take a closer look at the prospects of a “legal marijuana industry” in Mexico. 


The Ancient Growers of Mexico


Margarita, a 51-year-old farmer, wakes up every day at 5 a.m. to tend to her marijuana plants. She looks after her crop with great care, covering them with a camouflage-shaded cloth to avoid unwanted attention. For generations, her family has been harvesting marijuana, and she is no different.


Despite the fact that Margarita does not work for any cartels or criminal organizations, her product still reaches buyers through independent distributors, as well as the Sinaloa Cartel, whose jailed kingpin, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, was born in Badiraguato, where she lives.


But the times have changed, and the marijuana industry is no longer what it once was. Margarita struggles to sell her product as much as she did five years ago. With the current price for weed, Margarita earns only $25 per kilo, and more than half of her harvest remains unsold.


To make ends meet, Margarita relies on a government assistance program called "Sembrando Vida," which gives roughly $220 a month to small farmers in states like Sinaloa, Chihuahua, and Durango, to encourage local development and discourage drug production.


But Margarita still worries about how she will sustain herself if she cannot sell her crop. She tried to switch to tomato farming, but it sells even worse than marijuana. Big companies take all the sales, and she has very little to offer in quantity.


Meanwhile, negotiations to legalize marijuana in Mexico have stalled. Although the Senate passed a bill legalizing recreational use of marijuana in 2021, lawmakers in the lower house are still holding up the measure. Margarita remains barred from formal sales in Mexico, and while criminal groups position themselves in what could soon be a legal market, independent growers like Margarita are left to worry about their future.


Activists who push on through


Despite the Mexican government's slow progress in legalizing marijuana, activists in the country are still pushing forward to make a change. 


The government has created a legal mechanism for people to grow cannabis and be protected against prosecution, but it has yet to make any significant strides in legalizing marijuana. Nevertheless, the Mexican cannabis market is evolving, and activists are getting ready. 


With more states in the US legalizing cannabis, there is more demand for high-quality Mexican weed, and some activists are taking advantage of this. They are investing in creating high-quality strains of cannabis, and some are even taking steps to create cooperatives to grow and distribute marijuana. 


These cooperatives are self-sufficient and do not rely on the government to provide them with resources. 


In addition, activists are educating the public about the benefits of cannabis and its various uses. They are working hard to change the public perception of cannabis and its users, which has been negative for many years. Despite the obstacles they face, these activists remain committed to the cause, and their efforts are beginning to pay off. The Mexican cannabis market is rapidly changing, and activists are leading the way towards a brighter future for the country's marijuana industry.


The Cartels Dream of Green Too


The Mexican cartels have been eyeing the cannabis market for years. They have seen the potential for massive profits, and their interest has only grown as legalization efforts have stalled in the government. For the cartels, it's not just about the money. They feel entitled to the cannabis market, almost like it's their calling. After all, many of them have been involved in the illegal cannabis trade for decades. It's a part of their identity, their culture. They see themselves as the protectors of the cannabis plant, and they are not going to let the government take it away from them without a fight.


But the cartels also see the potential for something bigger. Just as the American Mafias integrated their bootlegging operations into legal alcohol markets during Prohibition, the cartels could potentially do the same with cannabis. By becoming involved in the legal market, they could become less violent and more legitimate. However, unlike the Mafias, the cartels deal in multiple illegal activities, including human trafficking, money laundering, and drug smuggling. Even if they were to become involved in legal cannabis, they wouldn't stop doing the illegal stuff. They would continue to operate in the shadows, making money off of other illegal activities while using the legal cannabis market as a front.


Some cartels are already preparing for the eventual legalization of cannabis in Mexico. They are studying the success of dispensaries in the US and investing heavily in the development of new strains of cannabis. They believe that they can produce the best weed in the world and that people will come to them for it, whether it's legal or not. They see themselves as the future of the cannabis industry in Mexico, and they are not going to let anyone else take that away from them. For the cartels, cannabis is not just a drug or a way to make money. It's a way of life, and they will do whatever it takes to protect it.


So where does this leave us?


The stories of Margarita, the activists, and the cartels all paint a picture of the evolving Mexican cannabis marketplace. While the government may be slow to act, the people are not waiting around. Margarita continues her family's legacy of marijuana farming, but faces new challenges in a changing market. Activists are pushing for change and finding legal mechanisms to grow cannabis while avoiding prosecution. And the cartels are preparing to take advantage of the new opportunities that a legal market will bring.


What's happening in the Mexican cannabis marketplace is complex and evolving quickly. Those who still think of Mexican weed production as being about "bricks" are mistaken. The market is changing and adapting, and people like Margarita and the activists are leading the way. And when Mexico steps into the international cannabis arena, they will be a force to be reckoned with. The cartels will make sure of it.


But the evolution of the market is happening in the dark. There is so much that people don't understand about what's happening in Mexico's cannabis industry. The legal mechanisms for growing cannabis are still not widely known or understood. And the cartels, while interested in a legal market, are still involved in multiple illegal activities.


Despite the challenges, the people of Mexico are pushing forward. And as the market evolves, so too will the opportunities. So, while you can still buy bricks from Margarita for $25 a kilo, it won't be long before the Mexican cannabis industry becomes something completely different, and internationally relevant.





What did you think?

ganja leaf left  Keep reading... click here  ganja leaft right

Please log-in or register to post a comment.

Leave a Comment: