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Cannabis… the Canadian model the wrong one

9 November 2019

Although marijuana is not legal in Mexico… yet… I’ve been noticing for the last several months people advertising in the foreigners sites for sales and marketing people in what they expect to be some sort of boom market.  While I don’t expect the domestic market to be all that large (except maybe for foreigners and hipsters who can afford those less traditional forms of ingestion, like “artisanal” candies and whatnot, I did notice the advertisers, when questioned, all say the regulations that are going to favor them are coming, and the advertiser is a “respectable” Canadian company.

Although my concerns about marijuana legalization centered around probable US agro-business running roughshod over the intended beneficiaries of legalization (farmers, indigenous people, victims of the “unregulated exporters”) and have drawn my parallels to the history of other luxury crop exports (sugar, with it’s history of slavery; coffee and bananas, an on-going saga of labor exploitation, land theft, and murder), Canadian journalist, and long time observer of her country’s “investments” in Latin America, Dawn Marie Paley, in addition to long reporting on the narcotics trade and its impact on our part of the world, has seen another “development model”.  I don’t know if her article in today’s Jornada was also written, or might be published, in her native English, so I went ahead and translated it.

 

It has just been a year since Canada legalized the production, consumption and sale of marijuana, becoming the second country in the world to do so, after Uruguay.

But unlike Uruguay, Canada has a long history as the headquarters for multinational companies, many working on an extractivist model to return profits to managers and shareholders in Toronto and New York. Apparently, the cannabis sector is looking to follow in the footsteps of Canadian mining companies.

Canadian miners established a business model attractive to cannabis companies, based on extractivism and cheap labor. The miners try to influence legislative changes in their favor, just as cannabis companies do. Today we are facing an attempt to build a colonial and punitive international cannabis industry.

The largest marijuana company is Canopy Growth, based in Ontario. Canopy has 8 billion dollars in shares and operations in 14 countries. Its largest shareholder is Constellation Brands, owner of Grupo Modelo, Corona, and Pacífico in the United States. In recent years, Constellation has been the target of protests and boycotts against the construction of a new [export] brewery in Mexicali.

There are also other Canadian cannabis companies valued at billions of dollars, with operations in Asia, Africa and Europe. These companies have two interests when investing in other nations. They want to establish their own farms for marijuana production for eventual export to Canada (and the United States, when marijuana is legalized nationally),  But they also want to monopolize national markets. Utopia for them, perhaps, would be consumers having access only their proprietary marijuana products.

Cannabis companies are already lobbying in Mexico. “Representatives of international and national firms, laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, production companies” have been pressuring senators on regulation, according to the Morenista senator Ricardo Monreal. He added that the Senate wants to “cool the impetus a bit” and not move forward with regulating marijuana under pressure from business lobbyists.

The Mexican Senate should have issued its regulations on cannabis for adult use by October 31, but requested an extension, that was granted by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN). Now, the Senate and Chamber of Deputies now have until April 30 of next year to pass legislation on recreational cannabis use in Mexico.

Regulation is a minefield, in which corporate interests threaten to overlook those of the  traditional cultivators and victims of prohibition-related violence. Experiences in other nations of Latin America teach us that it is necessary that regulation be robust and inclusive.

In Colombia, for example, activists worked hard to achieve regulation that would contribute to peace-building, including the [rights and expectations of] traditional cultivators, war victims and indigenous peoples. However, despite the efforts, almost all traditional growers have been left out of an integral participation in the legal business, because the market has been monopolized by a group of Canadian companies.

The National Development Plan presented by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised an “end of the‘ war on drugs ’”. But far from being decriminalized, state continues to work against those who produce, distribute and consume marijuana in the country. There are still people imprisoned for the simple fact of having few grams of grass for their personal consumption.

It is vitally urgent to regulate cannabis in Mexico.

But it is also important that in the Senate take their time and that there is transparency in Mexican marijuana regulatioons. But it is even more important that Mexico does not adopt a law that allows unlimited participation for foreign companies.

As the #RegulationForLaPaz coalition has always insisted, marijuana regulation should be focused on social justice, protecting small producers and contributing to reparations for the hundreds of thousands of victims of violence resulting from the so-called fight against drug trafficking.

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