Mexico’s Supreme Court Orders Lawmakers to Regulate Medical Cannabis

On Wednesday, the Second Chamber of Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of a mother and her son who uses cannabis to treat spasms associated with West Syndrome, a rare epileptic disease. This decision obligates the Executive branch and the Ministry of Health to enact and implement regulations for the medical use of cannabis within 180 days. 

In Mexico, the medical use of cannabis was actually approved through modifications to the country’s General Health Law back in June 2017. However, more than two years later, the country still lacks regulations and, as a result, patients and their family members still lack consistent, cost-effective access to medication. 

Following Wednesday’s ruling, Luisa Conesa Labastida, the attorney who represented the family before the Supreme Court, indicated that if the Executive branch fails to comply with the ruling, it will be subject to legal punishment.

Jorge Javier Romero Vadillo, a researcher at the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Xochimilco, signaled that though the suit was filed on behalf of Margarita Sánchez Garfias, and her son, Carlos, who used to have hundreds of seizures per day at the peak of his illness, the decision extends to the entire populace. The ruling, he noted, also puts more pressure on Mexican lawmakers, who are already at work on policy for medical and adult use. 

(The Senate hosted a series of roundtable discussions on the subject of adult use this week, giving citizens an opportunity to weigh in in person. It is also taking feedback through a special portal online. At one of the Monday sessions, Miguel Ángel Mancera, who coordinates senators who are members of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), confirmed that lawmakers will resume their discussion on cannabis during the next regular session, which starts on September 1.) 

On Thursday, the Mexican government issued a statement, indicating that the Ministry of Health and the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) will fully comply with the ruling and has already taken steps to ensure that Carlos, whose mother is currently illegally cultivating two plots of cannabis to supply his medicine, “is provided with the comprehensive medical treatment required,” in “absolute respect for the human right to health.” 

On the day of the hearing, the nonprofit Mexico United Against Crime (MUCD) issued a statement, in which its drug policy director, Tania Ramírez, underscores the role of civil society in the process of legalizing cannabis. According to Ramírez, it is “only through the use of judicial channels have we been able to make the damages of the prohibition visible and achieve important advances like the extension of rights.” 

MUCD currently heads the #CannabisConPermiso (#CannabisWithPermission) campaign, which seeks to accelerate legislative change to regulate all cannabis use. 

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