Over eight-thousand people attended the fourth edition of one of Mexico’s most significant gatherings of the cannabis community, Expoweed, this weekend. Throughout three days of political panels, cultivation presentations, dab rig shopping, industry networking, and hip-hop freestyle battles, a picture emerged of a country that, after decades of cannabis activism, could be on the brink of something huge.
The crowd was relatively diverse, for a cannabis event. Women made up a considerable percentage and all age groups were represented. Attendee numbers seemed to confirm that the country’s citizens are ready for change.
“All of you here today are proof that there is a light in the tunnel,” said Senator Patricia Mercado, who has played a pivotal role in pushing the Department of Health to refine the country’s medical marijuana system.
This year’s Expoweed could have been the last to take place in a Mexico without legal recreational marijuana. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government has held a series of public discussions on cannabis policy over the past month. Lawmakers appear to be scrambling to meet the Supreme Court’s expectation that the legislature regulate adult-use marijuana. The court’s judges pronounced cannabis prohibition unconstitutional last year.
Senators Jesus Rodríguez and Mercado, who are among the group of majority women Mexican politicians who have become leaders on the issue of legalization, appeared in Expoweed’s Saturday panel on the regulation process.
The two senators focused on encouraging the cannabis community to weigh in on the Senate’s fact-finding process when it comes to marijuana regulation. “Don’t let us alone!” said Rodriguez, who was a performance artist before becoming an elected official last year in President López Obrador’s Morena party. The flamboyant senator also debuted an online platform during the panel that will collect opinions on cannabis legalization from the marijuana community via the politician’s own website.
“[Past presidential administrations] never wanted people to weigh in, and we want that,” Rodríguez told the crowd. “How would you like it if the cannabis law was the first in Mexico to be determined by the majority of the people?”
Her words met with pushback from the owner of Mexico City’s La Semilla Growshop, Jorge Hernández Tinajero. He pointed out during the regulation panel’s Q&A session that it was irresponsible to ask marijuana growers to identify themselves to the government while the current penalty for cultivation entails up to a six year prison sentence.
“If this is how it’s going to be, I don’t think our participation is a good idea,” Hernández Tinajero said.
The regulation panel drew the most media attention of the weekend — though it was edged out in total number of attendees by Luis Gómez of Jalisco’s Lagos Growers and his technical presentation on marijuana cultivation.
Hernández Tinajero later clarified to High Times that he saw the confidentiality oversight as merely one of many inconsistencies being heard from Mexican politicians when it comes to cannabis. “Truthfully, I’m not as optimistic as some of the others,” he said, pointing to President López Obrador’s failure to mention marijuana consumers’ rights as a sign that upcoming laws may not center personal cultivation and citizen-run cannabis clubs to the extent that Mexico’s activist movement would like.
Individual rights have long been the focus of many Mexican cannabis advocates. Cultivation rights has been of particular interest, especially since it is not legal for Mexicans to produce the CBD oil with low THC that is authorized by the country’s limited medical marijuana program.
Zara Snapp received permission from the country’s Supreme Court to grow and consume marijuana in 2018, and is now active through Regulación Por La Paz, a group pushing for the legalization of cannabis and other drugs. Snapp was an Expoweed presenter, but also grabbed a microphone to question a pair of cannabis investors after their own panel on future business opportunities within Mexican marijuana.
“How are we going to change the infrastructure of the country so that rural communities receive the profits from cannabis?” she asked. “[Regulación Por La Paz] is trying to make sure that the people currently growing marijuana can keep growing it, and transition from illegal to legal.”
While moments of ideological friction popped off in Expoweed’s lecture hall, in the events aisle of cannabis vendors from both in and outside of Mexico, the mood appeared largely positive.
“More and more people are getting interested in cannabis regulation,” Laura Peralta Díaz told High Times. Peralta’s company Nahui Cempoalli sold its CBD health and wellness products to Expoweed attendees, from clay face masks to personal lubricant. She had seen the difference in cannabis event attendees ever since the founding of her brand two years ago: “People are becoming more educated on the subject, especially on CBD, specifically.”
That sentiment was echoed by Paulina Mejía Correa, the co-founder of the Xalapa, Veracruz-based company Divinorum Boutique Herbal, which makes tortillas, peanut butter, and sauces with hemp seed. “There is more and more acceptance of cannabis consumption in Mexico,” she told High Times. “Regulation would be very beneficial — it would allow more people to learn about cannabis without the prejudice of it being illegal and somehow immoral.”
Despite the presence of many Mexican cannabis distributors and activists, a large portion of the Expoweed schedule was given over to US experts. Oaksterdam University’s Gustavo Duarte came to present on the basics of starting a cannabis business.
“We already know that the word ‘marijuana,’ the word that everyone [on] the whole planet uses to describe the product, came from Mexico,” Duarte told High Times. “The country has such a rich history within the industry already, once they get over this prohibition and this taboo mentality — and they will, quickly. Once it happens, the industry’s going to explode.”
Hernández Tinajero concurred. “I think society is advancing at a much more accelerated speed than our institutions and laws,” he said, before heading back to his growshop’s booth to greet potential marijuana cultivators with advice on how to grow their future.