Mexico president floats referendum option on recreational marijuana after court says to legalize

By Raul Cortes

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday he will respect a court ruling telling the government and lawmakers to legalize recreational marijuana use for now, but opened the door to convening a public referendum on the issue.

The Supreme Court ruling on Monday brings Mexico closer to creating one of the world’s largest legal cannabis markets and pressures the Mexican Senate to approve the sweeping legalization bill that has been stalled there since the Lower House of Congress approved it in March.

“Of course we’re going to respect what the court has decided and we’re going to evaluate. We’re going to see what effects it has,” Lopez Obrador said at a regular news conference in response to a question about the Supreme Court’s decision.

However, Lopez Obrador acknowledged “there are two views” on the legal weed issue, including in his cabinet, and said his government was evaluating the best path forward.

“If we see … that it’s not working to address the serious problem of drug addiction, that it’s not working to stop violence, then we would act,” the president said, suggesting he could send a new bill to Congress or push for a public referendum.

Lopez Obrador has in the past used referendums to decide thorny policy issues. On Tuesday he again laid out the argument for such “participative democracy” in the context of the cannabis debate.

His comments were not decisive however, and he did not explicitly say he was leaning toward such a solution.

Colombian-Canadian Khiron Life Sciences, Canada’s Canopy Growth and The Green Organic Dutchman, as well as Medical Marijuana, Inc. from California, are among the firms eyeing opportunities in Mexico.

The court ruling removes a legal obstacle for the health ministry to authorize activities related to consuming cannabis for recreational purposes, and was the final step in a drawn-out legal battle to declare unconstitutional a prohibition on non-medical or scientific use of marijuana and its main active ingredient THC.

Lopez Obrador said he will instruct health regulator Cofepris to comply with the ruling to authorize activities related to the cultivation, transformation, sale, research and export or import of marijuana.

(Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Bill Berkrot)