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Mexico Joins Canada In Making Cannabis Legal, Leaving the US Far Behind in Marijuana Policy.

Our neighbors to the north and south see the war on drugs as a failure and legal cannabis as an opportunity.
Mexico Joins Canada In Making Cannabis Legal, Leaving the US Far Behind in Marijuana Policy.
Image credit: YURI CORTEZ | AFP | Getty Images

Just like that, Mexico joined Canada this month in making medical marijuana legal nationwide. And the Canadian Parliament is considering making adult-use marijuana legal across the nation by mid-2018.

All of this could potentially put legal marijuana businesses in the United States far behind their neighbors to the north and south.

Marijuana remains an illegal drug at the federal level in the United States, although 29 states and the District of Columbia have made medical marijuana legal. Another eight states, as well as the district, have made adult-use marijuana legal.

The Trump Administration shows no signs of changing the federal law anytime soon. If anything, it's just the opposite. Members of the administration have been so vocally antagonistic to legalized marijuana that a bi-partisan group of senators have submitted a bill protecting state medical marijuana laws from federal interference.

What's this mean for marijuana entrepreneurs in the U.S.? Potentially some very stiff competition, according to former Mexico President Vincente Fox.

Related: Senators Press Legislation to End DEA 'Meddling' In States That Legalize Medical Marijuana

Exporting marijuana.

Both Canada and Mexico will take the lead in producing medical marijuana for use in the U.S., Fox told those gathered at this month's National Cannabis Industry Association convention in Oakland, Calif.

Both Canada and Mexico intend to export medical marijuana to the U.S., a legal practice under international law.

Fox said he eventually expects Mexico to produce and export as much as 60 percent of the marijuana used by those in the U.S. Fox said cannabis "has to be integrated into NAFTA," allowing it to be traded across the border "without barrier, without taxes and limits, only complying with the law."

Change of heart.

Current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nietro had opposed legalizing medical marijuana nationwide as little as a year ago, but began to change his mind after a national debate on the issue in 2016.

He has in recent months called for countries around the world to rethink their approach to illegal drugs, treating it more as a public health issue.

Related: McDonald's Billboard Cracks a Good Pot Joke

The decree issued by Pena Nietro gives the country's Health Secretary 180 days to "harmonize regulations" on medical marijuana, as well as the creation of regulations to govern production, sale and use of medical marijuana.

The decree also calls for research into all the potential health benefits of marijuana, as well as programs that prevent children and adolescents from having access to marijuana and programs for those who develop addictions. The measure passed Mexico's Lower House of Congress by a vote of 371-19, according to the Independent. It had earlier passed the Senate by a vote of 98-7.

Ravaged by drug wars.

Mexican leaders took the action on medical marijuana - and Pena Nietro has taken a new stance on illegal drugs as a whole - as the country faces a continued escalation in the drug wars that have ravaged Mexico for years.

After a downturn in violence in the early years after the turn of the century, deaths related to Mexican drug wars totaled 121,669 between 2006 and 2012, according to a recent report from the Justice in Mexico project at the University of California- San Diego's Department of Politic Science and International Relations.

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That translates into more than 20,000 homicides every year, about 55 every day and just over two per hour, according to the report.

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