Top Misconceptions About Cannabis in Mexico, Part 3

In this multipart series, we debunk various incorrect ideas, impressions and rumors we continue to hear about the Mexico cannabis industry and the road to legalization. Here are Part 1 and Part 2. Are you getting something wrong about cannabis in Mexico? Keep reading!

Legalization is only about allowing people to grow/smoke weed.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Legalization is about creating a full-fledged industry that will span everything from industrial hemp to medical cannabis to adult use. It is meant to regulate every link in the cannabis production and distribution chains so as to ensure quality and traceability of the products consumers will have access to– whether for medical, industrial or adult purposes. Much of this misconception is due to media coverage that, until VERY recently, has associated legalization with those who advocate for adult use without restrictions. Granted, adult use activists have been very vocal about their rights, but they are just a fraction of those pushing for the development of an industry for both domestic and international participants.

Legalization will corrupt youth.

This is a misconception commonly associated with the Mexican Catholic Church, which perhaps understandably still exerts strong influence in a predominantly Roman Catholic country. However, the Church’s position has been manipulated by some media outlets. The Church has never said that legalization will corrupt youth. The Church is not even against legalization as a whole, but against legalization of adult use without a debate that encompasses views from across the spectrum of society. The Church argues that the lack of a broad public debate has prioritized the interests of a few stakeholders over public health and safety issues, and that placing limits on the production, distribution, marketing and consumption of a plant that “health professionals and … consumers testify that their use, in any quantity and presentation, significantly reduces the control over one’s actions, and puts the consumer at serious risk to himself and others” does not address the real problem. The Church believes that problem to be “the effects on families, by young people who use drugs, nor does it contribute to inhibiting and reducing exposure to narcotic substances.” As a result, the Church urges both the Government and Church members throughout Mexico not to support legalization without putting campaigns in place on addictions and the consequences of narcotics consumption on human health. The Church has also urged all stakeholders (especially youth) to inform themselves and take responsible action, to avoid “getting carried away by the permissiveness raised by these norms that allow the drugging of citizens.”

One of the tasks of the National Commission Against Addictions to be created by the upcoming Cannabis Law will be monitoring the effects of legalization, while creating and supporting education and health promotion policies. Education will help people understand that legalization will not only provide important healthcare support but also boost the Mexican economy.

Only companies can apply for permits/licenses.

Not true. Both individuals and legal entities can apply for cannabis permits/licenses and there is no legal requirement to act through intermediaries. The real issue here is that permits/licenses are non-transferrable, so if for any reason you wish to sell your cannabis business, you will be unable to do so unless the license holder is a company, which can be sold along with the license. Companies are advised to set up a Mexican entity that can apply for the licenses; the application requirements for the various cannabis permits/licenses, particularly for medical use, are applicable/can best be fulfilled by entities created under Mexican law.

Now that the Medical Regulations are official, I can smoke marijuana, make or consume edibles, or use any kind of ointments or supplements.

Growing and smoking marijuana for individual adult use is indeed legal thanks to a Supreme Court Declaration of Unconstitutionality, but you still need to file for an amparo action to obtain the permits to exercise those rights. The Medical Regulations did not change anything in this regard. As for edibles, ointments, supplements, etc., no cannabis product that fails to qualify as medicine (medicamento) as defined by the General Health Law can be imported into Mexico. At this point, under the Medical Regulations, vapes or anything that involves smoking cannabis cannot be imported into Mexico either, and we do not expect the Cannabis Law to regulate otherwise. The only exception would be devices that enable smoking/inhaling for medical use. The Cannabis Law will also regulate manufacturing, sale (and therefore consumption) of edibles and drinks with CBD/THC content, but we do not expect those containing THC to be legalized. Per the transition provisions contained in the Cannabis Law bill, prohibition on edibles containing THC might be lifted in three years, once there are more studies on their effect on human health, but as with many other things, we will have to wait for implementation of the law (and existence of those studies) to be certain.

IMPI, the Mexican Patent and Trademark Office, denies registration of cannabis trademarks.

There is no absolute bar on cannabis trademark registration in Mexico. The legal prohibition was that no trademark was to be granted “when its contents or form are contrary to public order or contravene any legal provision.” Now that the Medical Regulations have entered into force and a General Declaration of Unconstitutionality allowing for individual adult cannabis use has been issued, we believe that prohibition has lost much of its power. True, very few cannabis trademark registrations have been granted to date, but that is more the result of businesses abandoning their applications due to genericity or similarity issues, as well as the COVID pandemic slowing government response times. We expect some examiners to continue to pay extra attention to cannabis trademarks, but now that cannabis is fully legal for medical use, if/when full legalization becomes a reality it will be easier to contest any application objections. There will be a marked increase in trademark registrations granted to cannabis companies at that point.

In upcoming posts we will continue debunking misconceptions that continue to propagate as the legalization process comes to a close. We also firmly believe that the time is now to prepare to launch or expand a cannabis business in Mexico. When the Cannabis Law is finally enacted, you want to be ready to go. To learn more, we also urge you to follow us for the next webinar or contact us at [email protected] or [email protected]!

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International, Mexico