The small garden of cannabis plants growing near Mexico City’s Senate building, reported this past March by High Times, has grown to a crop of more than 700 plants, some more than eight feet tall.
The garden has been planted and maintained by activists demanding the government act on the October 2018 Supreme Court ruling that states cannabis prohibition is over regulation that violates the right to freely develop one’s personality, forcing Congress into reforming five articles of the General Health Law, with a 90 day deadline.
“Unlike the U.S. or other countries who have begun to reform cannabis, Mexico is not driven by ballot initiatives, but by strategic human rights litigation,” said, Pepe Rivera, protest organizer and longtime hemp and cannabis activist in Mexico. “With the Senate reconvened on September 1, we are now awaiting ordinances.”
Though three deadlines have come and gone since the ruling, the latest given by the Supreme Court is December 15 of this year. And though the Senate approved a draft Bill for further discussion during its last session, work was suspended when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in April.
On that same day, the Mexican Cannabis Movement (MCM) called for a #Fumaton, a smoke-out that lasted two days, surrounding the Senate building. This forced legislation to reopen its main entrance and send a committee of Senators to hear their demands.
The four main demands of the movement are, as follows: 1) Unlimited home grow for personal use; 2) Possession without limits; 3) Safe consumption sites; and 4) Protection of the rights and dignity of users.
The occupation, dubbed, #Planton420, is a form of protest where people “plant themselves in front of someone until demands are heard.” This occupation is taken literally and figuratively along with the planting of cannabis by the Senate building.
“The lack of compromise by Mexican legislators has fueled civil disobedience at its best,” Rivera said proudly. “Mexican activists are partaking openly and planting the country’s capital with cannabis in protest. We started by planting one single plant on one of the capitol’s main streets on December 23, 2019, in order to gage the response of the state. We then proceeded to occupy the Senate’s park and the main entrance to the building on February second of 2020.”
The group has been holding human rights workshops and lectures, teaching about the medicinal benefits of the plant; with movies and video games projected onto the Senate building wall, and a safe smoking area where anyone who wishes to medicate can do so without being bothered by the police.
Rivera said the occupation has evolved into the #Pabellón420 (pavilion), outside the Senate. What began with just a few tents and improvised structures is now a working kitchen, office, and horticultural tent.
Current efforts are underway to find sponsors to set-up a cannabis museum, a classroom and a DJ booth on top of a fountain under the watchful eye of a statue of Louis Pasteur – said to be the father of modern medicine.
Louis Pasteur, The Waldos, And Mexican Mota
Not coincidentally, a statue of Pasteur is where the Waldos met each day after high school at 4:20 p.m., in the city of San Rafael, California, and where the now global tradition of 420 began.
“The statue was a gift to the city by the government of France, but all the activists who know the origin of the 420 code by the Waldos understand the synchronicity,” he laughed.
Prior to the COVID lockdown, each week anywhere from 500 to one thousand cannabis enthusiasts visited the activists in the park and to see the growing jungle of cannabis plants. As of late, the protestors practice safe social distancing and work in shifts. They also use social media to stay connected and to further education of the plant.
“We meet every Tuesday and Thursday when the Senate is in session,” Rivera explained. “We do this to influence them into following through with the court’s directives—to change the laws, allowing the people to grow and use cannabis for personal use, which includes both recreational and medicinal use.”
Rivera said that the law currently regulates recreational, “uso ludico,” but the position of the movement is that such phrasing is discriminatory, as it promotes stigmas and prejudice of irresponsible users.
“The state should not care why you are using cannabis,” he continued. “The plant can be used for so many things, in so many realms—spiritual, medicinal, horticultural, food source, housing, clothing, and any other use that can further the free development of personality by adult users.”
In December of 2019, the protestors drafted a letter to Santa Claus, requesting his help in getting the law changed.
“We posted the letter by The Angel of Independence, a monument near the Senate building on Reforma, one of the city’s main avenues,” he said. “But we needed a Christmas tree, so we left a cannabis plant. We also planted two cannabis plants on New Year’s Eve.”
Every time officials ripped out a plant, they would plant two more in its place. This exponential strategy worked, and by Three King’s Day, four plants were firmly established in the ground. On February 2 of this year, the garden grew to 32 plants. That’s when they decided to plant in front of the main entrance to the Senate, with the garden growing to more than 700 plants today.
“We thought we’d be celebrating regulations by now,” Rivera sadly stated. “Since change isn’t coming by the ballot, all we have right now is the Supreme Court’s ruling and its statement that cannabis is not a threat to personal health or public safety.”
A little-known fact is that Mexico decriminalized all drugs for personal use, with small amounts stated, in 2009. In the U.S., violence in retaliation by the cartels was reported, but not the underlying cause of decriminalization.
For cannabis, police in Mexico use the ten year ruling of 5 grams for personal possession, which no one buys or sells in the Mexican market as a tool for extortion, or collecting, what’s referred to as, curbside cash, otherwise known as bribes—a tradition passed down through generations of police in every state in Mexico, due to their low pay scale.
Important to note, police must also maintain their own vehicles, including paying for gas, new tires and tune-ups at an average salary of about $1600 a month. This does not condone the bribes, but it does give some perspective.
“The current Bill completely ignores the Supreme Court ruling,” Rivera said. “Under current law five grams of cannabis are allowed and that’s an unacceptable and unreasonable amount,” he said. “Even though Mexico uses the metric system, the cannabis market still operates through ounces, for example, one quarter ounce is seven grams.
As the pending Bill reads now, the limit for a personal grow at home is just four plants. The new law would allow patients or partakers to have on their possession anywhere from an ounce to 200 grams—or seven ounces.
“The problem is not the amount, the problem is the limit,” Rivera continued. “Because the police will add grams to any limit in order to have something they can use against you.”
Rivera said that right now in Mexico there are hundreds of cannabis patients, users, and activists who have obtained an injunction preventing the government from violating their human rights by persecuting them.
“I have a permit by the Mexican FDA, stating I can grow for personal use, as long as I don’t affect the rights of others – with no limits to how much I can grow,” he explained. “The law would try to take away or limit a right that has already been granted and recognized, and would therefore go against the principle of intractability of the law.”
The government agency similar to the U.S.’s FDA, or Federal Drug Administration, is COFEPRIS, or Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios. The agency oversees health facilities, sanitary control, and monitoring the import and export of health products. It was COFEPRIS that ultimately allowed CBD to be imported into Mexico in 2017, with a THC or tetrahydrocannabinol count of one percent or less—two percent lower than America’s limit.
Rights First, Market Later
The motto of the #Planton420 is #PrimeroLosDerechos despue el Mercado, or “Rights first, Market later.”
“Who are the Senators drafting Bills for?” Rivera laments. “They are not looking to guarantee home grows, as recognized in the Supreme Court’s ruling. They are being diplomatic, but we don’t feel they are drafting proposals with the average user in mind, and our human rights are not negotiable.”
“You don’t need a permit to make beer at home for personal use,” he added. “No one tells you how big your home bar can be, or how many cigarettes or bottles of tequila you can carry in your car. If cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes, then you can’t justify harsher limitations over consumption.”
Rivera makes the comparison of cigarettes that can be smoked while walking down the street, or sitting in a park. With cigarettes a known cause of cancer by second-hand smoke, and no negative side effects from a whiff of cannabis, then the debate is off to begin with.
“If Congress fails to regulate in time, the Constitution mandates the judicial branch of the government to declare the unconstitutional articles null and void for all Mexicans—not just for those who have won injunctions for the right to use cannabis,” he said. “We need the regulations to be realistic. I’d like to see Mexico be a model for the use of cannabis in public places.”
With activists stating, ‘if they won’t come down to hear us and see us, they’ll have to smell us.’ When the COVID-19 lockdown began in Mexico, the local government recognized the now extensive cannabis gardens as a valid form of protest protected by the Constitution. This was a victory, as the plants and protest have been left alone to grow organically within the perimeters of the park that has been closed off to the public.
Rivera concluded by stating there’s a disconnect between the legislators who use the plant to play politics, and the people who use this plant for personal use.
“It’s time for the powers that be to listen to the people,” he surmised. “If they don’t, we’ll drag the new law into court for discrimination. This is about human rights and a beneficial plant that is helping thousands around the world right now. The hope of the Mexican Cannabis Movement is to change the narrative of the global failed Drug War into one where language promotes and protects the human rights of users.”
Find the Mexican Cannabis Movement (MCM) and the #Plantón420 crew on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter (website under construction, English content coming soon).