Mexico City cannabis activist Jade Luna Villavicencio is sure that the end of cannabis prohibition can’t be far away. “There’s a saying that goes, ‘No hay mal que dure cien años’ [nothing bad lasts for a hundred years]’,” said the activist at yesterday’s cannabis plant-in.
If that’s the case, then we’re in the final countdown. Mexico first banned cannabis on March 15, 1920, the result of classist fear-mongering that would later spread to the United States. A century later, the Mexican Supreme Court has declared prohibition of consumption and personal cultivation unconstitutional. But legislators have dragged on passing the laws that would make it official. Their new deadline (they blew the first one) is April 30.
On Thursday, cannabis activists showed once again that they’re tired of waiting in the shadows for regulation. At 4:20 p.m., at the base of the Ángel de Independencia, Mexico City’s most recognizable monument, activists planted 16 marijuana seedlings into the city’s manicured garden beds.
It was highly unlikely the little guys would make it to maturity before officials snatched them out of the dirt, as they have the previous five plantings at the Ángel. But some of the planters had come as far away as Baja California for the action, and the shoots gave them a dignity the likes of which hasn’t been seen in the hundred years since Mexico made marijuana illegal.
“I have hope — many of us have hope — that because of all the fight we’re putting in, that we will eventually reach an agreement,” said Villacencio.
But perhaps the question is; what kind of agreement? Last weekend, the Senate released its latest proposal for cannabis legalization. It would require individuals to get a license to grow cannabis in their home, and limits the harvest to six plants per household. Anyone caught with more than 28 grams of flower on their person would be subject to criminal charges. It privileges foreign enterprise over Mexico’s vast underground cannabis industry by requiring all seeds be registered. Most ominously, nowhere in the text are mentioned the constitutional rights to consume and cultivate as recognized by the Supreme Court.
And so, the country’s highly organized cannabis movement has found itself reiterating its concerns to elected officials. For a few of the activists at the Ángel, Thursday began with a 5 a.m. meeting with Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.
The primary concern at the dawn meeting was addressing abusive cannabis policing tactics, in particular local cops’ practice of extorting people found with marijuana, regardless of the quantity. Though Mexico City decriminalized possession of small amounts of all drugs, and up to five grams of marijuana, in 2009, cops typically have no problem planting more weed on people undergoing notorious “routine checks” so that they’re over the limit and have to pony up for a bribe.
“I’ve been extorted over the last six months more than ever,” activist Pier Giuseppe Coppe Hernández, who attended the meeting with Sheinbaum, told High Times. “They’ve taken my cash, wallet, marijuana, pipes. This situation cannot continue.”
In response, the mayor told the activists that she had already — privately — given the order to her police forces to deprioritize such policing. She asked for documentation of cases of abuse, if indeed they still existed.
“It was disturbing,” said Mexican Institute of Cannabis founder Pepe Rivera, who also attended the meeting. “When we told her what was happening with [police extorting] cannabis consumers, she told us that it simply wasn’t happening.”
But if elected officials think they can over-bureaucracy the pachecos [Spanish for stoners] away, they have another thing coming. On February 2, activists will set up an ongoing plantón [protest camp] in front of the Mexican Senate building. They’ll be offering cultivation workshops to the public, and planting even more mota plants in the garden beds right in front of the country’s Congress.
To present a living thing like a marijuana plant can be a compelling form of activism. How to believe the terrible things society has taught you about cannabis when you are faced with a perky green seedling?
The activists also presented Mayor Sheinbaum with a bushy cannabis plant at the morning meeting. They are hopeful that the green made Sheinbaum more sympathetic to their cause, more likely to really put an end to the cops’ exploitation of Mexican cannabis consumers.
“It was well received,” said Rivera. “She said ‘Thank you’.”
The group had taken the time to name the plant before they passed it over to the city’s highest authority, a former environmental scientist who might be swayed by green things when other methods of communication failed. There, written on a notecard attached to a stalk was the point of all these early mornings and acts of leafy civil disobedience: “Esperanza”.