Where There's Smoke: Mexico Moves to Legalize Marijuana

The movement toward marijuana legalization continues to grow on the North American continent. The latest step happened last week, when Mexico's Senate voted to legalize cannabis throughout the country. Canada also legalized marijuana years ago, meaning the U.S. could soon be in an awkward sandwich position between two nations with legalized pot.

"With legal marijuana to the north and south, and a whole lot of un-walled border between the three countries, it's going to put a lot of pressure on the U.S.," says Frank Snyder, law professor at Texas A&M Law School in Fort Worth. "Because of the likely illegal importation into the country, and the pressure by American businesses who want a slice of what's going to be a pretty large market."

That growing pressure from businesses might be what finally pushes the U.S. toward full legalization. "What this does is put a lot of pressure on ancillary industries--the liquor industry, the tobacco industry--other industries that are getting highly involved in that in Mexico," says Snyder. "If someone's going to be selling marijuana beer in Canada and Mexico, Budweiser is going to want to be able to sell it here as well."

"I think it's a huge impetus for the industries to get behind legalization in a way that they didn't really before."

So far, a handful of U.S. states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, with efforts to expand legalization continuing in several states, including here in Texas. But any federal legalization is likely still years off, according to Snyder. "I think the U.S. will get there, I think most of the world is gonna get there, and I think there probably will be a federal solution," he says. "But I'm a little leery because there are so many competing interests."

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