MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s Health Ministry on Tuesday published regulations to regulate the use of medicinal cannabis, a major step in comprehensive reform to build the world’s largest legal hemp market in the Latin American country.
The new regulation was signed by President Andrés Manuel López Obredor, and will now allow pharmaceutical companies to begin medical research on cannabis products.
Cannabis reform involves recreational use of marijuana, and will be the world’s largest national hemp market in terms of population.
New Medicinal Regulations State companies that want to conduct research have to seek permission from the Mexican health regulator, COFEPRIS, and do this research in strictly controlled, independent laboratories.
“The standard of regulation is very high,” said Louisa Conessa, a lawyer and cannabis activist who faced legal challenges that led to the demilitarization of medical cannabis.
“(Regulation) is not aimed at patients growing their own cannabis, it is aimed at pharmaceutical companies derivative of cannabis, classified as controlled substances that require a prescription is.”
The regulation also sets rules for sowing, cultivating and harvesting cannabis for medicinal purposes, which would allow businesses to legally grow marijuana on Mexican lands.
While some hemp plant imports are permitted to companies that produce the products, the export of Mexican-grown hemp is prohibited.
Foreign weed companies from Canada and the United States are watching Mexico with interest. Many had delayed investment decision-making due to policy uncertainty and were waiting for the final regulation to be published.
Mexico’s lawmakers are also in the final stages of legalizing recreational use of marijuana, with the bill expected to be passed in the next round of Congress.
The law marks a major shift in violence caused by years of uncontrolled drug cartels in a country that has long illegally developed millions of dollars of marijuana and smuggled it into the United States.
Follow NBC Latino on Facebook, Twitter And Instagram.