This Weed Conference Wants to Reframe the Conversation About Marijuana in Mexico

A home grow set up. Photo: Caitlin Donohue.

This Saturday May 7th, Mexico City will celebrate its 16th annual Marcha Cannabica. Once again, thousands will take over central avenues in the name of marijuana activism, advocating for safe and easy access to the drug.

But it’s far from the only weed event going on in the city this weekend. Nearly 3,000 cannabis users a day are expected to attend the legal workshops, forums and cooking classes that will comprise Cannabis Hub, a two-day expo whose organizers want to reframe the discussion about marijuana in Mexico.

“We don’t want to talk about whether (weed) is good or bad,” Cannabis Hub organizer Homero Fernández Pedroza told me. “We want to talk about how it’s going to work.”

It’s not like people aren’t talking about the future of weed in Mexico. Last fall, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of four activists who applied for the right to grow their own marijuana. The court said that barring individuals from consuming marijuana violated their right to develop their own personality, which is guaranteed in the Mexican Constitution. Due to the country’s legal system, one court decision is not enough to establish jurisprudence, meaning that more cases will need to be decided before the judges’ decision is considered legally applicable to anyone besides the original appellants.

Homero and Emilio, co-organizers of Cannabis Hub. Photo by Caitlin Donohue for Remezcla.
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Since the beginning of 2016, Mexico’s federal government has been hearing arguments for and against legalizing medicinal and recreational uses of the plant at a series of five forums that took place in different cities throughout the country. And just in time for 4/20 this year, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that he’ll ask Congress to raise the legal amount of marijuana for personal possession from five to 28 grams.

But Cannabis Hub organizers don’t feel like these proposals go far enough, fast enough.

“It’s clear that the system isn’t working,” says longtime cannabis activist Jorge Hernández Tinajero. Fernández Pedroza and co-organizer Emilio Helguera have put Hernández Tinajero in charge of organizing the speakers and debates at this weekend’s expo. They consider the author and advocate to be Cannabis Hub’s padrino. Hernández Tinajero has been tapped repeatedly as an expert voice on marijuana during the last months of legalization discussions in the country. At one point, he was called to the Mexican Congress to share his knowledge of the plant with members of the far-right National Action Party (PAN). He’s also the owner of La Semilla, a small store in the Coyoacán neighborhood that sells the soils, sprays and planters you’d need to start your own cultivation practice.

“Something needs to change,” Hernández Tinajero said. “The degree in which it changes, those are the terms of debate.”

What’s lacking in the current political lip service, Cannabis Hub organizers say, is any plan to legalize marijuana cultivation. Without that, the average stoner is still stuck getting their supply from the black market.

“Civil society needs to keep pushing for the right that the courts have already recognized,” said Hernández Tinajero.

A home grow set up. Photo: Caitlin Donohue.
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Enter their event, whose mission is twofold. One aspect is “a humble attempt on our part to unite all these different people who have a common goal,” said Helguera. “We really want to be a hub.” The other is to present this educated, united vision of the marijuana community to the Mexican politicians who will be watching — many have promised to attend in person. “They don’t know the scale of the market,” Helguera continued.

Scheduled to speak at the event are Juan Vaz and Martí Barriuso, cannabis club pioneers who have been jailed for their work in their home countries of Uruguay and Spain. U.S. weed entrepreneur Robert Massey and Mexican cannabis advocates will also be present — as will a gourmet food court coordinated by ace Mexico City food event collective Comilona. (No on-site smoking will be allowed at Cannabis Hub.)

Fernández Pedroza and Helguera received a grant three years ago that was to go towards public education on cannabis and its cultivation. At that time, they said it was impossible to find venues that wanted to host an expo that specialized in cultivation — even if they focused on vegetables and didn’t even mention the word “marijuana” in their descriptions of the event.

But times have changed, and now Cannabis Hub is primed to show the public a different side of the weed debate in Mexico. Lawyers will be stationed within the expo to help attendees who want to legally grow their own weed initiate their own amparos, or appeal procedures based on grounds of unconstitutionality. It’s the same process that the four advocates used to win their cultivation rights from the Supreme Court last fall.

Maybe by this time next year more Mexicans will have been able to quit buying their pot from the cartels for good.