Legal background and evolution of cannabis in Mexico

By Lic. Manolo Pasero
Let's start with something very basic: where do you think cannabis originates from?

It grows as if it were endemic to our country, but it is not Mexican. The first data we have on this plant and its uses are from 12,000 years ago in Mongolia. It arrived in the Americas with Christopher Columbus and was introduced to Mexico by Hernán Cortés to raise the economy of the destroyed Tenochtitlán.
It is clear that the case is not new, we are not here to invent the black thread, but to give continuation and due focus to this fractured conversation about a product that could legally represent Mexico, at least 5 billion dollars. per year according to the National Association of the Cannabis Industry (AniCann). I want to expose the documentation endorsed by doctors, religious and members of the post-conquest royalty that celebrates this plant as a powerful tool to cure ills, develop textiles and strengthen the economy of New Spain. The same that in my faculty as a lawyer allow me to present it with legal validity as evidence for those of us who are seeking to change the prohibitionist policies in our country and adapt them for medicinal use. Because little pieces of paper speak, the background matters and the social need weighs a constitutional reform.

At the beginning of this year, the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Nation shared that Cofepris had violated the rights of a child with West syndrome by failing to comply with its duty to issue provisions on the therapeutic use of cannabis. He was given 180 days to do the task, and if you allow us to make it easier for you, history has the answers.

As I already mentioned, cannabis was introduced to Mexico for industrial purposes. At that time, Carlos V forced our indigenous people to spin and weave hemp. Since we had the tradition of peyote, mushroom, sage, toloache for spiritual purposes and herbalism for medicinal purposes, experimenting with a plant was the natural course. This led Viceroy Luis de Velasco y Ruiz de Alarcón to limit its use because "the indigenous people began to use it for something other than creating ropes." During the time, the Holy Inquisition was also lived in Mexico and any type of indigenous ritual related to their religions was condemned.

We find documents from centuries later that demonstrate medicinal practice in Mexico. One of these is signed by the Jesuit Juan Esteyneffer in his work Medicinal Florilegium of all diseases from 1712, in which he refers to various customs such as the use of hemp seeds in horchata to cure gonorrhea. Years later, the cartographer, botanist and nephew of Sor
Juana Inés de la Cruz, José Antonio Alzate y Ramírez, declared him competent against muscle and tooth pain. And toward the end of the century, Instructions for Planting, Cultivating, and Processing Flax and Hemp in New Spain were published, indicating that everything was ready to catapult us into researching the medicinal effects of the plant. The first indication of formal control of drugs was in 1831 when a group of doctors and pharmacists created the Medical Faculty of the Federal District, which ten years later would become the Health Council of the Department of Mexico. During this time, both the 1838 Police Regulations and the 1840 Departmental Board Ordinances appeared, provisions that for the first time monitored the sale of drugs and medicines. In the middle of the 19th century, Dr. Crescencio García wrote Fragments for the Mexican materia medica, in which he stated:
The Baron de Humboldt rightly said: 'Mexico with its productions can maintain the rest of the globe'… there is no drug that stops being created under our sky… all species are produced punctually and many equivalents of equal or perhaps greater efficacy . The only thing that remains is that the Mexican physicians want to use them with discernment, so that Mexico can boast of having its own materia medica, composed only of remedies of indisputable virtue.

In his studies on marijuana, he stated that European doctors, especially English and Arab doctors, recommended it against epilepsy, tetanus and convulsions in children, the dance of Saint Vitus, hydrophobia, delirium tremens, mental derangement and articular rheumatism. His conclusions lead him to list a series of recipes for potions, ointments and syrups. In this 1856 text, the doctor laments how many therapeutic discoveries have been wasted so far and theorizes that if the research had continued, our medical corps would probably be unrivaled in developing unsurpassed products suitable for export. Meanwhile, in England, Queen Victoria cured her menstrual pain with marijuana. In 1871, the historical researcher José Domigo Schievenini exposes in "The prohibition of marijuana in Mexico, 1920-1940, that in the Penal Code of 1871, known as the Martínez de Castro Code, the concept "Crimes" is introduced for the first time. against public health” and it is prohibited to produce substances harmful to health without authorization. He also assures that the importance of this regulation is that the first regulations and their respective penalties for the control of substances appeared. There was still no talk of drugs, addictions or drug addiction, but of food, drinks or medicines with deficiencies in their preparation. But he did resonate with doctors who took up the persecution of substance use, for which reason they limited themselves to exhibiting beliefs inherited by quackery from past decades and centuries. In Ricardo Pérez Montfort's book, Tolerance and Prohibition: Approaches to the Social and Cultural History of Drugs in Mexico, 1840-1940, it is pointed out that in 1878 a regulation on pharmacies and drugstores was approved in Mexico City, where penalized whoever sold what were then known as dangerous drugs and which included the following ingredients: arsenic, henbane, belladonna, hemlock, chloroform, mercuric chloride, rye corn, digitalis, Jimson weed, phosphorus, marijuana, mercuric acid nitrate , opium and zoapatli. This guideline was criticized because, as José Domingo Schievenini commented in his investigation: it prevented the free productive activity of Mexicans, particularly because it contravened the provisions of Article 4. Constitutional law that established that a government resolution could not prevent a man from dedicating himself to a profession, industry or work except in cases in which the necessary terms were dictated, and in this case said terms had not been explained, for which reason the presumed offenders could easily resort to the amparo appeal causing the ineffectiveness of the regulation.

It was then that the Higher Health Council drew up another project that lists products that should be subject to restricted sale, including marijuana. The same that was presented before the Congress of the Union and was denied by the Office of the Interior. It's interesting to see how the conversation looks divided in the same way it does today. Among the revisions can be found the Health Code of 1892 that recognized the medicinal use of marijuana and its derivatives, allowing the sale of 0.3 grams of cannabinone to an individual every 24 hours, 2 grams of hashish in a single sale every 24 hours and cannabine tannate in amounts not exceeding .5 grams. So far, they were not a reason for punishment, only to regulate their consumption. It is important to mention that in 1908 there was a reform of article 72 of the Constitution of 1857 that empowered the Congress of the Union to issue laws on general health in the country. Under this scheme, Mexico attends international conventions to control the sale of drugs. Specifically, we are talking about the one in The Hague in 1912, because it is the one that has a determining effect on the future of marijuana consumption. In said event, the United States of America sought to ban cannabis indica. While other nations disagreed, Mexico endorsed this proposal and registered its support in the Official Gazette of the Federation in 1927. The 1929 Penal Code began to formally restrict the use of drugs. It specified that the use of drugs was a crime against health and stated that "habitual drunkards and drug addicts will be confined in a hospital or special department of the mental hospital, where they will remain until they are completely cured or corrected in the opinion of the doctor of the establishment and the Superior Council of defense and social prevention”. Within the specifications, the use of "enervating drugs" was noted, which they categorized as: prohibited plants, substances exclusively prepared for a vice, chemical products that can cause great havoc and substances harmful to health. Marijuana fell into four of the five divisions. Since then and for the years of the government of Lázaro Cárdenas, the drug user has fallen.

At the same time, in 1937, the United States issued the Marijuana Tax Law in which it invited Mexico and Canada to align to restrict industrial uses and its cultivation to "definitively end this threat." Mexico agreed and concluded that it would be done "so as not to give any pretext for the misuse of this drug, since in the country… there are [a large number of addicts], especially among indigenous cannabis indica fans," in addition to resolving that there was no industrial use. Imagine this: Mexico eliminates the criminalization of drugs, doctors can prescribe narcotics for addicts, the nation protects the buyer of small amounts of drugs and frees drug criminals. What if I tell you that it already existed? That was the Mexico of Lázaro Cárdenas, which for five months was considered a paradise for green oil. The one who set out to fight drug addiction and drug trafficking. In the 1940 Federal Drug Addiction Regulation he stated:

That practice has shown that the complaint is only made against a small number of addicts and small-scale traffickers, who, due to lack of sufficient resources, are unable to ensure their impunity. That the persecution of the vicious that is carried out in accordance with the 1931 regulation is contrary to the concept of justice that currently prevails, since the vicious should be conceptualized more as a patient who must be treated and cured, than as a true delinquent who must suffer a grief. That the only result obtained with the application of the aforementioned regulation of 1931, has been that of the excessive price of drugs and that due to this circumstance the traffickers do not obtain great benefits.

In this it can be verified that it gives control to the medical staff to meet each request and prescribe doses higher than those allowed in pharmacies. But before the year was out, the government declared that cocaine and morphine shortages caused by World War II prevented the plan from going ahead…including the distribution of cannabis. In addition, these statements were weakening the diplomatic agreements between Mexico and the United States, which is why the neighboring country lashed out with some threats that forced the legislation to be changed. This devastated the work that Dr. Leopoldo Salazar Viniegra, psychiatrist and neurologist, had been verifying with his document "The myth of marijuana."

In this, he accused society of exaggerating and mishandling information. At the same time, he conducted a study for seven years with which he concluded that, regardless of social class, education, or age, the only effect of smoking a churro was: "drying the lips, reddening the eyes, and producing a feeling of hunger." That's all. He also argued that prohibition woke up the monster of the black market and pointed out that stopping drug traffickers was almost impossible… which is still impossible. He ends his study stating that "the issue of marijuana does not deserve the importance of a social or human problem, the scientific study of it will, on the other hand, always be of interest to those who, free from prejudice, submit it to their disciplines."

Can you imagine how much bloodshed we could have saved if we had followed in their footsteps?

“The best pleasures are usually green,” published the writer Juan Pablo García Vallejo in the 1985 Pacheco Manifesto, just one year after the drug legislation established in the General Health Law was created along with the Mexican Federal Penal Code. . This establishes that "sowing, cultivation, harvesting, processing, preparation, conditioning, acquisition, possession, trade, transportation in any form, medical prescription, supply, employment, use, consumption and, in general, any related act" is prohibited. with narcotics or with any product that contains them”. In 1994 the Penal Code increased the punishment for cases of production, transport, traffic, trade and supply to a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 25 years. The idea is not to regulate to limit, but to regulate to encourage.

To magnify Made in Mexico. To give an answer to our doctors, to continue answering questions regarding its use, to train the hospital staff, to ease the physical pain of the patient. In contemporary Mexico, a legal dance has been seen that has pushed us without being very clear about what lies ahead. As Mexicans we have a relationship of more than 500 years with this healing plant, but by focusing on its psychotropic effect we have demonized and, therefore, truncated the investigation and the possible legal reforms of a resource that can be much kinder than its contraindications for what needs to be given a bit of context to this conversation and that in legal matters helps us define the regulations.

It is not the same to talk about THC, CBD, THCA, CBDA, it is not the same to talk about Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, each species is cultivated for different purposes and each cannabinoid works for something. In order to regulate from the public health perspective, we cannot continue talking about a plant, a species, an effect. As a society, we must understand what the cannabis plant is and how it participates with the cannabinoid system found in our central nervous system.

2009 was a good year, the possession of small amounts of cannabis and other substances was decriminalized, but it leaves out many commercial and research opportunities, necessary for the production of medical cannabis. It was revisited in 2015 and increased the amount to 5 grams, any additional weight, and goodbye to certain privileges. The following year, two patients with epilepsy were authorized to import cannabidiol oil for their consumption. The decision was based on the freedom of citizens to decide on their bodies and, according to Minister Olga Sánchez Cordero, the absolute prohibition is a "disproportionate measure because it generates minimal protection for health and public order against to the intense intervention of the right to people to decide what leisure activities they wish to carry out”.

In 2017, the work of Dr. Saúl Garza Morales, neuropediatrician and coordinator of the Neurodevelopment Unit of the Spanish Hospital in Mexico City, conducted the first clinical study in the country that focuses on the benefits of cannabidiol in patients suffering from the syndrome. by Lennox-Gastaut. He demonstrated that 84% of the patients significantly decreased their epileptic seizures and 16% achieved complete control of all their seizures for four consecutive months. In 2018, the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks released the guidelines for the sanitary control of cannabis and its derivatives, which included a regulation for medical and scientific purposes. But by March 2019, those guidelines were revoked until in the middle of this year, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation ordered the Ministry of Health to regulate medical marijuana. This month, a bill was presented to found a state company that we would call Cannsalud, which would exercise the monopoly of commerce in the country and a special tax of 12% that would go to social programs. It is known as the "new green gold" because it not only has the possibility of helping medicine, but we must think of it as a renewable material, which takes only 20 weeks to be born versus the 20 years that trees take. What also opens the conversation to regulate the field so that they can incur with a perspective of social justice and privilege ejidos. We are at a crucial and decisive moment for medicine. Forget if it remains in the hands of the government or the private initiative, or whoever remains, in the end the law and its regulations will remain, as well as the random regulations derived from said regulations. What remains for us is to understand what the terms and conditions are, paving the way with valuable information that shares the medicinal benefits of cannabis and allows the correct regulation of what cannabis entails. Remember another very important industry in Mexico that is the field, that within the existing legal framework of the field there are possibilities for peasants to benefit again from green gold. For this cause, Sara Znapp, co-founder of the RIA Institute, an association that generates research and solutions to advocate for public policies such as cannabis, has commented that she suggests that legalization prioritize national producers that includes three access routes to the plant: self-cultivation, associate cultivation and a regulated market. She has also pointed out that she has certain legal figures in the social sector on how to privilege ejidos, communal properties and small owners. Today, the conditions are these: Criminal decriminalization General Health Law Amparo Mexico is about to crown cannabis as the new ruler of the economy, medicine, and the ecological revolution that needs to exist. And it is that if after five centuries we cannot agree that our ancestors used it to save the economy, let history in Mexico speak and defend it as José Antonio Alzate y Ramírez did: "they are bad because they are prohibited, not prohibited because bad”. This week our president Andrés Manuel López Obrador pointed out:

We do not rule out (marijuana regulation), and we are going to do whatever is appropriate. One advantage we have is that we are free, we are not subordinated, tied, subjected to any created interest group, our master is the people. And we have to take care of, as has been said here, the health of the people, and we have to take care of the health of young people and we are going to move forward.

Dear Mr. President, it is evident that this is what we are doing in this CannabisSalud forum, the response to our beloved people is documented in the history that defends the medicinal properties of cannabis, which proves that it is an instrument for improving living conditions of a nation and a solution for the environment. History recognizes cannabis as an economic opportunity that solved the economic state of Tenochtitlán. From a medicinal perspective, from an economic position, legalization in its different industries can help get Mexico out of a recession. You have to see the green economy of Canada, of California, of Colorado to inspire that change. It was said that it would be resolved in September, it was said that it would be resolved today, but we only have answers that drag us on and create a divided Mexico. Divided between those who act out of fear, ignorance and resist change and those who seek to innovate and advance the country whose flag has shades of green that represents the hope of a nation. Look, my office is in Tijuana, I live on that piece of land that is part Mexican and part Californian. With this we explain how we move, how we behave and what is essential in our uses and customs. Medical tourism is a constant, we are bilingual and we are binational. Here the homeland begins and the conversation about legal marijuana has also begun due to its proximity to the border. We have seen firsthand the movement in California for the legalization of cannabis and we were there in 1996 when the use of medical cannabis was established. The golden state is a pioneer in the modern age and we have seen its development. California has the largest legal market in the world with sales of cannabis products reaching $3.1 billion. We will be fine, but we have to keep pushing.

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