The world has watched the success of Canada’s Bill C-45 and the spread of cannabis regulation across 30 US states. From an outside perspective, it seems Mexico would be soon to follow. But for those living there, general access to dispensaries and regulated cannabis is murky. The country’s population continues to witness the highly publicized arrests of small-time marijuana producers and activists. TV audiences are pounded by hysteric anti-drug moralizing on the news. Despite the progress of recent years, true legalization of mexa-marijuana often seems like a pipe dream.

Mexico’s legalization movement may have begun in 1985 with sociologist Juan Pablo García Vallejo’s Manifesto Pacheco (or, the Stoner’s Manifesto). The text linked the plant to Mexican counterculture and anti-capitalist forces. By the ‘90s, cultural luminaries like novelist Octavio Paz were among those calling for its acceptance. Many cited legalization as a way to reduce the power of drug cartels, whose bloody battle for US market share began to cost even more Mexican lives with the advent of President Felipe Calderon’s War on Drugs. It’s estimated that 120,000 Mexicans were killed in the government-cartel crossfire that took place between 2006 and 2013.

Still, activists were largely unable to sway—or interest—the country’s

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