The legislation marks a major shift in a country bedeviled for years by violence between feuding drug cartels.
Mexico’s health ministry on Tuesday published rules to regulate the use of medicinal cannabis, a major step in a broader reform to create the world’s largest legal cannabis market in the Latin American country.
The new regulation was signed off by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and will now allow pharmaceutical companies to begin doing medical research on cannabis products.
The cannabis reform taking place includes the recreational use of marijuana, and will create what would be the world’s biggest national cannabis market in terms of population.
The new medicinal rules state companies which wish to carry out research have to obtain permission from the Mexican health regulator, COFEPRIS, and this research has to be done in strictly controlled, independent laboratories.
“The standard of regulation is very, very high,” said Luisa Conesa, a lawyer and pro-cannabis activist who spearheaded legal challenges that led to decriminalization of medical cannabis.
“(The regulation) is not aimed at patients growing their own cannabis, it is aimed at pharmaceutical companies producing pharmaceutical derivatives of cannabis which are classified as controlled substances that need prescription,” he said.
The regulation also sets rules for the sowing, cultivation and harvesting of cannabis for medicinal purposes, which would allow businesses to grow marijuana legally on Mexican soil.
While some cannabis plant imports are permitted for companies looking to create products, exports of Mexican-grown cannabis is prohibited.
Foreign weed companies from Canada and the United States have been looking at Mexico with interest. Many had delayed making investment decisions due to policy uncertainty and were waiting for the final regulation to be published.
Mexico’s lawmakers are also in the final stages of legalizing recreational use of marijuana, with the bill expected to pass in the next period of Congress.
The legislation marks a major shift in a country bedeviled for years by violence between feuding drug cartels, which have long made millions of dollars growing marijuana illegally and smuggling it into the United States.