MEXICO CITY – Business leaders and industry representatives said they were “optimistic” that the marijuana legalization legislation being debated by Congress could lead to a “green economy boom” in Mexico.
Guillermo Nieto, president of the National Cannabis Industry Association (ANICANN), said he expected marijuana to be legalized soon, creating a market potentially worth $5 billion annually by January 2021.
The ANICANN was created a year ago and already has 200 business people ready to invest in the cannabis industry as soon as legalization occurs, Nieto said.
Investors plan to pump money into growing marijuana, as well as into cannabis-derived medicines and other products in Mexico, which has the capacity to produce harvests that are up to three times bigger than those in the United States and Canada, the ANICANN president said.
“This (level of) competitiveness, in a market like the one that’s coming, could make us Mexicans the spearhead of a new green economy. We’d like to think that Mexico is going to become the principal producer of cannabis patents in the world,” Nieto said.
Congress once again took up marijuana legalization this month, when Congressman Mario Delgado introduced a bill create a state-owned company – Cannsalud – that would be granted a monopoly over the cannabis business.
The bill also calls for a special 12 percent tax on cannabis-derived products, with the funds generated by the levy going into social programs.
Delgado’s bill, along with other proposals, including one made by Government Secretary Olga Sanchez Cordero, was a response to a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that said a total ban on cannabis was unconstitutional.
Nieto said the legal proposals made so far were positive because they would establish “clear rules” for the industry and a “level playing field for everyone.”
The proposals would create a cannabis hub, allowing members of the public, the business community and the government to come together to invest in research and development focusing on the plant, the ANICANN president said.
“This is the new green gold. Today, when we’re thinking that we don’t have oil, well, we should think about this, which, in addition, is renewable. Every 20 weeks, a farmer can replant,” Nieto said.
Zara Snapp, of the RIA Institute, agreed that cannabis legalization would give a boost to agriculture and the countryside.
“We want to create and develop an industry with a conscience, which is thinking things over well, which wants to make a contribution to society via this industry and that is not just about earning a profit. I believe that this is something easy for Mexicans to understand,” Snapp said.
The RIA Institute is a trade group that has been hosting workshops in Mexico City for entrepreneurs interested in entering the cannabis business with a focus on social justice.
In light of the growing number of proposals being floated, Snapp said marijuana legalization was the priority for producers, especially in areas affected disproportionately by the “war on drugs.”
Pro-cannabis groups are working to end the stigma associated with pot use and disinformation about the properties of the plant, which has more than 100 chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, of which not all are hallucinogenic and could be used for industrial and medicinal purposes.
The ANICANN estimates that there are only about 7.2 million recreational marijuana users in Mexico, but a potential 40 million people could end up using cannabis-derived products, such as creams and analgesic medications, daily.
The trade group also estimates that the Treasury could generate up to $400 million annually in tax revenues from the cannabis industry, while farmers would earn more than $3,000 per hectare planted with the crop.
In the Americas, only Canada and Uruguay have completely legalized marijuana production, sales and use.
Recreational marijuana use is legal in 11 US states and the District of Columbia, while medicinal marijuana is legal in 33 states and Washington, DC.
The US federal government, however, has still not decriminalized marijuana.
Medicinal marijuana is legal and regulated, with varying levels of control, in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico.