MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's lower house overwhelmingly passed a bill Friday approving the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the latest in a series of legal changes and court rulings that have somewhat relaxed cannabis laws in Mexico.
The measure does not allow smoking marijuana, but directs the Health Department to "design public policies to regulate the medicinal use of this plant and its derivatives."
The bill passed Friday by a 374-7 vote with 11 abstentions allows growing marijuana for medicinal or scientific purposes. The legislation now goes to President Enrique Pena Nieto to be signed into law.
Starting last year the Mexican government began granting permits letting some patients import medicinal marijuana products. It has also decriminalized small amounts of marijuana and issued several permits for people to cultivate and possess pot for personal use.
Those permits have only covered the specific individuals involved, however, rather than blanket laws applicable to all of Mexican society.
The bill would also authorize cultivation of marijuana plants for medical and scientific purposes and establish that industrial products with concentrations of 1 percent THC or less would be legal to buy, sell, import and export.
Rep. Rosa Alba Ramirez of the small Citizens' Movement party noted that, "this is not opening the door for a general and unchecked consumption because it includes measures so the health department can ensure it is not being abused or distorted to widen it to recreational use."
The bill already passed Mexico's Senate.
Rep. Arturo Alvarez of the Green Party said "this is a step in the right direction of exploring new alternatives of regulated, legalized and supervised use, and can open up a new front for authorities to combat addictions and the violence that arises from the illicit activities of drug growing, trafficking and consumption."