Friday, April 8, 2016

Integral cannabis regulation bill presented in Mexican Senate (April 8, 2016)

A bill presented in Mexico's Senate this week proposes a new approach to cannabis regulation along the lines of Uruguay's groundbreaking 2013 reform. The proposed law would create a state monopolized legal pot market, set rules for medicinal and scientific uses, as well as personal use, reports el Universal.

The bill would permit residents to grow up to six plans for personal consumption, and would create government organisms to grow, process and store marijuana for sale at distribution points, as well as to distribute it to legal sales points, reports Animal Político.

The proposal would bring Mexico into an international vanguard of cannabis regulation, and maintains a good balance between public health and justice objectives, argues Georgetown Professor Fernanda Alonso Aranda in an Animal Político op-ed.

She notes that the bill differentiates between medical, therapeutic and personal use, and emphasizes the importance of a complete and integral regulation.
President Enrique Peña Nieto will be defining an official stance towards marijuana reform in upcoming days, reports Informador

But this week the Mexican Supreme Court put a damper on pot initiatives, rejecting a request by a company seeking permission to create marijuana based medications by having the body declare unconstitutional the legal provisions that ban the production and sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes, notes Alejandro Hope in El Daily Post.

News Briefs
  • A Guatemalan legislator proposed a cannabis legalization bill that would regulate a medicinal and recreational marijuana market in the country, reports Noticias.
  • A new Ipsos poll taken after anti-Keiko Fujimori protests earlier this week shows the right-wing election front-runner slipping slightly to 37.7 percent of the vote, reports Reuters. The new poll has leftist Veronika Mendoza, who is promising voters to reform a business friendly constitution, tied with investor-favorite Pedro Pablo Kuczynski for second place in Sunday's election. Should the two women face off in the June second round, the poll has them statistically tied, a scary result for markets which had been betting on a business friendly administration. Mendoza is apparently gaining traction among poor, rural and female undecided voters. But she is also a polarizing figure, others are wary to leave behind economic growth. PPK would beat Fujimori in a second round by seven points, according to the poll. (See yesterday'sTuesday's and Monday's posts.) El País sums up the basic facts of Sunday's elections and the main candidates.
  • A Cuban Communist Party congress that will be held next weekend is being closely watched for indications of how economic reforms will advance on the island, reports the Associated Press. One-thousand party members from around the country will gather April 16-19 to discuss the government's plan moving forward. Already party members have been complaining about lack of debate, and an article in Granma promised a continuation of market-friendly changes. (See March 30's briefs.)
  • Fidel Castro made a rare appearance outside of his home yesterday. He visited a school, reports Reuters.
  • As Colombia moves towards peace with it's guerrilla rebel groups, paramilitary groups present the weary population with a new threat, reports the Guardian. This weekend the powerful Usuga Clan, an armed drug-trafficking organization, killed a truck driver and five members of security forces as part of an "armed strike" aimed at showing the extent of their influence and strength in country's north-east. The group's power also shows the dangers of the peace process, as they were born from a "faulty demobilization" of right-wing paramilitary groups in the mid-2000's, argues the piece. Criminal bands, known as BACRIM, control drug trafficking and illegal mining, but also have strong ties to local elites and politicians. Human rights groups warn that this new generation of paramilitary groups has become the main source of human rights abuses in the country. They could also play a role in undermining the potential peace accord, if power players opposed to the deal hire them to oppose key elements of the agreement.
  • Colombia's Constitutional Court took a big step towards permitting full-fledged gay marriage in the country, with a decision yesterday that a justice's opinion that would have prevented public notaries from registering the unions as marriages. Though Colombia already permits gay couples to form civil unions with the same benefits as marriage, the decision will likely legalize same-sex marriage within a few weeks, reports the Associated Press. Colombia would join a handful of Latin American countries permitting equal access to the institution of marriage, including Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Last year the court also permitted LGBT couples to adopt (see briefs for Nov. 6, 2015).
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri promised to set up a blind trust to make his finances transparent, yesterday, as a prosecutor sought to investigate his role in offshore companies revealed in the "Panama Papers" leak, reports the Associated Press. (See Monday's briefs.) Macri says they were family businesses, for which he served as a figurehead and received no compensation. He will appear before a judge today, reports the Guardian. A blind trust would be a first for an Argentine president.
  • Macri is facing a wider challenge to maintain loyalty from voters after pushing through austerity measures that translate into massive price increases for energy, water and public transportation, reports the Wall Street Journal. Investors warn the government must move quickly to take advantage of its political capital.
  • Brazil's top-prosecutor recommended the Supreme Court block the nomination of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as cabinet minister, arguing that the move is intended to shield him from a corruption investigation, reports Reuters. His appointment was already suspended last month by a Supreme Court judge, the full court must decide by April 20 whether to uphold that injunction. Yesterday's recommendation attacks the government just days before a vote in the country's House of Deputies over whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, notes the Wall Street Journal.
  • Chilean journalists are up in arms over a new "gag law" passed by the country's Senate earlier this week, which penalizes anyone who makes public information about current judicial investigations, with up to 541 days in prison, reports the New York Times. Critics say the law comes just as investigative reporters and prosecutors in Chile have been exposing illegal campaign financing, bribery and corruption that have shamed the country's political elite.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is striking back at a hostile National Assembly that is openly seeking ways to oust him. At a rally yesterday he said he is considering a constitutional amendment to reduce the congressional term to two months, reports El País.
  • Trends in Venezuela indicate higher degrees of criminal organization behind violence in the country, argues David Smilde at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. He points to an increase in massacres, as well as "spectacular" attacks on police forces. The causes include a return to traditional military forms of policing, stopping a civilian police reform that functioned from 2008-2014, an inflationary crisis that has eaten away at security forces' salaries, the use of militarized security plans and the ongoing economic crisis.
  • Legislators in Mexico's Baja California state punted on the question of banning bullfighting, reports the Los Angeles Times. A proposed ban has been delayed, and has fueled debate on the controversial but economically valuable sport. The season starts on Sunday.

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