Updated on January 7, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
When traveling abroad, it’s essential to know the laws of the land. Although Mexico has a reputation for being lax on drug laws, this is actually not the case. Since 2006, the government has declared a “war on drugs” that has led to a lot of violence and deaths.
However, the government’s stance on the medicinal benefits of cannabis has now taken a huge leap forward. In June 2017, Mexico legalized medical marijuana. With this change comes some legislative amendments patients should be aware of if they wish to participate in the country’s medical marijuana program.
Marijuana use in Mexico goes as far back as the 16th century when Spanish colonists brought the plant into the country. Not only did it prove to have many industrial uses, like as paper and textiles, but it was also used medicinally. However, in 1920, it received a negative stigma, and the government banned it.
Since then, this primarily Catholic and conservative nation has looked negatively on marijuana usage. As the benefits of medical marijuana came into public view, two young epilepsy patients received special permission from the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) to use medical marijuana medication.
This opened the door for legislative change. A bill legalizing medical marijuana flew through the Mexican Congress with an overwhelming majority voting in favor of its passing. On June 19, 2017, President Enrique Pena Nieto signed the bill into law. Although the specifics of Mexico’s medical marijuana program are not all worked out, the Ministry of Health has been commissioned to lead it.
The Mexican medical marijuana program has two responsible government bodies: COFEPRIS and the Ministry of Health.
COFEPRIS is responsible for granting permits to both national and foreign laboratories to produce marijuana-based drugs for Mexican pharmacies. The Ministry of Health, on the other hand, will head up the country’s medical marijuana program and work out the specific qualifications both patients and doctors will have to meet to be involved.
It appears that the medical marijuana program will be similar to those in Germany and the Netherlands in that doctors will be able to provide their qualifying patients with a prescription for medical marijuana that can be filled at pharmacies for a limited amount of time.
To make a distinction between those who are addicted to narcotics and those who distribute them, Mexico amended their drug laws in 2009. If a person is found in possession of five grams or less of marijuana, they will not be prosecuted. Repeat offenders will be encouraged to enter a drug rehabilitation program.
However, severe penalties still stand for those involved in marijuana:
Those found with more than five grams of cannabis are also subject to prosecution.
Mexico has decided all medical marijuana provided to patients must contain one percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although many proponents of cannabis legislation are hoping they revise this contingency, the Ministry of Health and COFEPRIS are currently working within these bounds.
Only patients who have a qualifying condition as established by the Ministry of Health will be permitted to receive a medical marijuana prescription.
Until the Ministry of Health establishes the guidelines for Mexico’s medical marijuana program, patients are unable to receive prescriptions for cannabis. Those who qualify for the program will have to wait until parameters are set before they can obtain these medications.
Once the medical marijuana program is in place, doctors, patients and pharmacies who deal with cannabis medications will be protected under the federal government’s new medical marijuana legislation — as long as they follow the guidelines to avoid prosecution. Most importantly, all cannabis medication must only have one percent or less of the cannabinoid THC.
At MarijuanaDoctors.com, we seek to provide the most up-to-date information about both domestic and international cannabis laws. As the Mexican medical marijuana program continues to develop, we will update our resources with the latest news.
For more interesting topics and answers to commonly asked questions, check out our blog.