Cannabis Compliance in Mexico – Background Info, Fees & How-to Checklist [FREE LICENSING GUIDE]

July 05, 2023 | Category : Cannabis Compliance Country Reports | Posted By : Team Cannavigia

The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only. While we endeavour to provide accurate and up-to-date information, there may be instances where information is outdated or incorrect. The contents of this article should not be taken as legal advice nor should it be relied upon in making any business, legal or other decisions. We encourage readers to consult with a qualified legal or professional advisor to obtain proper advice based on your unique circumstances. Cannavigia disclaims any liability for any loss or damage arising out of or in any manner connected with the use of or reliance on the information provided in this article.

In very few other countries the socio-economic and political landscape has been influenced and changed by drugs the way it has changed Mexico. Caught in the middle between the biggest consumers of drugs in the world and the biggest growers thereof, drugs have affected the landscape in Mexico and pushed it to the forefront of crime statistics with government after government seemingly being unable to prevent the worsening of the situation or even worse, being repeatedly caught with their finger in the till at the expense of the general man on the street. 

Yet, marihuana (as it is spelt in Mexico) historically forms a large part of the daily habits of the general population. It is woven into the fabric of the society, but due to a very conservative strand of Catholicism, a conservative society and current association with criminal gangs, the spirit around the acceptance of marijuana as a daily fact of life, has become more questioned.  

Based on this the Mexican government has been steering their “war on drugs” policy in a new direction over the past few years.  

In 2009, Mexico decriminalised possession of small amounts of various narcotics for immediate and personal use. Since then, possessing 5 grams or less of cannabis is not a crime. Then, in 2015, Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalised cannabis cultivation by any adult (18 and up) for personal use. In 2017, amendments to the General Health Law and the Federal Criminal Code allowed limited cannabis use and consumption for qualified patients, possession for undertaking medical research, and import and export of medical cannabis products. 

In 2018, Mexico’s Supreme Court declared Mexico’s general prohibition against adult use cannabis unconstitutional and also mandated that the COFEPRIS and various other Mexican governmental agencies issue regulations to specifically address the establishment of a commercial cannabis chain for the distribution of cannabis. 

In March 2021 lawmakers in Mexico approved a bill to legalise recreational marijuana, a milestone for the country.  

Download Now: Free Cannabis License Checklist for Mexico [Get Your Guide]

“Today we are in a historic moment,” said Simey Olvera, a lawmaker with the governing Morena party after the bill was approved. “With this, the false belief that cannabis is part of Mexico’s serious public health problems are left behind.” 

On paper this all looks very appealing, but like most things in Mexico, there is a difference between what is being said and what is being done. This includes the law. 

A short history of cannabis in Mexico 

Hernán Cortés, the conquistador best known for claiming Mexico on behalf of Spain, is also credited as the man who first brought cannabis there. Cannabis in Spain, a leftover from the Spain’s colonialisation by the Moors, was highly regarded as rope and sail making material as well as for recreational purposes. Initially the Spanish government made subsidies available for growing hemp which helped to spread the growing of the crop quickly and widely across Mexico. Mexico’s weather was perfectly suited to the plant and a population that already had a love and history of plants and roots like fungi, peyote, toloatzin and nicotiana rustica, quickly fell in love with cannabis. 

The most famous of all Mexican folk songs, La Cucaracha, made popular during the Mexican revolution led by Pancho Villa, was about a cockroach who couldn’t fight anymore because it ran out of cannabis. 

So, the arrival of this new plant was welcomed with open arms and cannabis quickly started being used both recreationally and medicinally as well as in religious rituals. Over time, the medical use of cannabis became more and more popular in Mexico. In the 16th century it was used as a treatment for gonorrhoea, to regulate the menstrual cycle and also to alleviate muscle pain and toothache. There are documents that detail the use of cannabis in Mexican spiritual rituals. A story written by Guillermo Prieto in 1857 describes a ritual by an indigenous community in San Juan del Río which consisted of smoking marijuana to go into a trance-like state in order to find out whether a marriage between two young people should or shouldn’t take place. 

Like all other countries in the world, Mexico bent the knee before US and UN pressure to ban cannabis, which culminated in the 1970s in a controversial US-funded crop-spraying campaign that poisoned illegal grown crop.  

Where it stands today 

On 28 June 2021 the Supreme Court voted 8-3 to legalise adult use marijuana under Mexican law. However, state and federal penal laws remain in place, pending action by the Mexican Congress to clean up inconsistencies and remove penal language. No legal structure has been put into place allowing for legal sale of marijuana, nor are there provisions for commercial growth and production.  

Security experts agree that the law’s practical impact on violence will likely be minimal. With various American states having now legalised marijuana the crop has become a relatively small part of the Mexican drug trafficking business with cartels focusing on more profitable products like fentanyl and methamphetamines. 

It is also unclear how much the law will benefit Mexico’s poor farmers, who have grown marijuana for decades and often end up in the middle of conflicts between warring drug trafficking groups. The bill mandates that small farmers and Indigenous people be given priority in licensing, but stipulates only that these vulnerable groups can be granted more than one license. Some activists fear that the law will overly favour large corporations that could obtain what the bill terms an “integral license,” giving them access to the entire marijuana supply chain, from seed to sale, while leaving small-scale producers and vendors locked out of the lucrative market. 

Medical cannabis was legalised in 2017. However, in Mexico, medical cannabis refers to hemp and CBD. It is only allowed to have less than 1% THC. Since CBD products are far from the same as actual medical marijuana, the medical program has not been popular in Mexico.  

In Mexico, COFEPRIS is the agency that enforces regulation, and SENASICA oversees applications, so license application should be done to the latter.  

Cannabis and hemp fall under two different government branches. Cannabis control is regulated by the National Commission Against Addictions, a branch of the Ministry of Health. Hemp production and licensing is overseen by the ministry of agriculture. 

The import and export of hemp is allowed but all cannabis produced in Mexico must be sold and marketed in Mexico. No importation of cannabis is allowed. 

Health licenses for cultivation, harvesting and production of marijuana in Mexico are exclusively limited to medicinal and research purposes. 

Personal use 

Personal use requires a permit by the National Commission Against Addictions. This permit allows the growth of six plants for personal use and eight plants for households with more than 2 adults. The possession and transport of cannabis limit is 28 grams.  

Curious about the prerequisites, key milestones, and licensing fees for starting a cannabis operation in Mexico? Unlock the comprehensive guide here and gain access to valuable insights and expert recommendations!

Do you have any questions on the regulatory framework in Mexico? Contact us!