Mexico City, the second most populous city in the Western hemisphere, is moving toward being the latest American jurisdiction to legalize marijuana. The leftist political power in the city previously legalized abortion (in 2007) and gay marriage (in 2009). A newly elected mayor, Miguel Mancera of the left-wing PRD, may seek to make marijuana reform part of his legacy. Several members of the city’s assembly, a state legislature of sorts in the federal district, plan on submitting bills at the end of the month to legalize and regulate marijuana.
Left-wing supporters of the legalization effort want to fight the drug cartels and profit in general. They envision a model of cannabis clubs, both to circumvent federal laws and in an effort to keep profit out of the drug trade. Time reports:
Lawmakers are considering the idea of associations with up to 100 members, who would pay a subscription and receive about 50 grams or 1.76 ounces of marijuana per month. The Mexican drug policy reform group Cuphid, which has done extensive research into the issue, believes such clubs could comprise 70 percent of the Mexico City marijuana market, which it estimates is now worth about $30 million a year. “With clubs, marijuana can be regulated without profits, and give the users control,” says Cuphid director Jorge Hernandez. “They can open a space to show that regulation is better than denial and failed prohibition.” Mexico City could be used as a laboratory for policy makers across the country—and, indeed, the continent—to observe and learn from, Hernandez says.
Mexico has already decriminalized the possession of up to about a sixth of an ounce of marijuana, but critics say police still target users holding just north of that quantity. Legalizing marijuana through cannabis clubs is a start, but opening the marijuana industry to legal trade would unleash far greater economic potential. A $30 million a year market could become a billion dollar year business, given the Mexico City market’s large size.