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Have you ever wondered what our neighbor to the south thinks of cannabis?

Mexico tried the strict law enforcement approach during the administration of conservative President Felipe Calderon (2006-12), current President Peña Nieto’s predecessor. The unfortunate consequences lead to tens of thousands of Mexican citizens dying when drug cartels fragmented after Mexican security forces killed or imprisoned their leaders. The ensuing power vacuum stoked violent firefights for control of territory that led to an increase in murders, kidnapping, and extortion.

In 2015, an eight-year-old girl named Graciela Elizalde made international headlines as the first Mexican citizen allowed to use a cannabis-derived product for medical purposes. Graciela’s parents filed a petition to the Mexican government to make a special exemption to the law and allow the importation of a cannabidiol treatment for their daughter. The Mexican health agency that oversees medicine imports agreed to permit the importation of Epidiolex, a drug made by the British company GW Pharmaceuticals.

Following this international story, in 2016 Mexico took legislative steps towards legalizing the use of medicinal cannabis, and is considering penal code changes to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use.

“In a statement summarizing the debate, the Senate said the measure directs the Health Department to “design public policies to regulate the medicinal use of this plant and its derivatives” – including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant’s main psychoactive ingredient. It also would establish that industrial products with concentrations of 1 percent THC or less would be legal to buy, sell, import and export. The cultivation of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes will not be punishable (source: DW.com).”

Mexico’s Senate voted 98-7 last December successfully passing the bill onto Mexico’s lower Chamber of Deputies for a vote. Lawmakers are signaling the bill as an important first step in laying the foundation for a national medical cannabis industry.