Mexico Just Beat the U.S. to Legalizing Medical Marijuana

These days, when Mexico and the United States are mentioned in the same sentence, it usually has something to do with President Trump building a wall. So it’s a little bit ironic that Mexico beat the U.S. to tearing down the wall between its citizens and access to legal medical marijuana. On June 21, 2017, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a decree legalizing medical cannabis in the country, with the strong support of the nation’s Lower House of Congress. [1]

There’s just this…one…little…pesky detail: only products with 1% THC or lower will be permitted. That’s just slightly less than some of the 20%+ THC products some of the legal medical cannabis dispensaries in America offer. Heh. Even so, the decree classified the psychoactive ingredient as “therapeutic.” [1] [2]

In the declaration, Nieto called on the Ministry of Health to draft and implement regulations and public policies regarding “the medicinal use of pharmacological derivatives of cannabis sativa, indica, and Americana or marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinol its isomers, and stereo-chemical variants, as well as how to regulate the research and national production of them.” [2]

The decree is a start, but nothing close to what pro-marijuana lawmakers had hoped for. Sen. Miguel Barbosa said the legislation was “well below the expectations of society.” Sen. Armando Rios Peter referred to it as a “tiny” step away from a failed drug policy. [1]

But the bloody drug trade has made large swaths of Latin America terrifying warzones, so the move could ease such tensions, though the effect could be negligible, because – come on, 1% THC or less?

Though an estimated 100,000 people have died at the hands of drug cartels in the last decade, marijuana legalization of any kind is remarkably unpopular in Mexico. About 66% of the population opposes it.

The Catholic Church staunchly opposes legalization, even for medicinal purposes, once writing in an editorial:

“A drug is a drug even if it’s sold as a soft medicinal balm. Bad Mexican copycats emulate the neighbor to put on the table of ‘sane democracy’ a bleak, absurd and counterproductive debate. Recreational marijuana is a placebo to ease the pain of the social destruction in which we irremediably wallow.”

So, it might be a baby step, but it’s still a step in the right direction.

A statement from the Lower House of Parliament reads:

“The ruling eliminates the prohibition and criminalization of acts related to the medicinal use of marijuana and its scientific research, and those relating to the production and distribution of the plant for these purposes.” [2]

President Nieto was once a major opponent of marijuana legalization, but now believes that drug addiction should be thought of as a public health problem, and has advocated for Mexico and the U.S. to follow similar policies on drug use and marijuana legalization. [1]


[1] The Washington Post

[2] The Fresh Toast

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Could Yellow Fever be the U.S.’s Next Zika?

The yellow fever outbreak currently sweeping the jungles of Brazil could be the next Zika virus in the United States, health officials say. The Latin American country has seen an increase in the disease over the past few weeks in some of its rural areas. [1]

Health officials with the Pan American Health Organization have confirmed 371 cases of yellow fever, including 241 deaths. The group is investigating hundreds of other potential cases.

In a recently-published letter found in the New England Journal of MedicineAnthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and colleague Catharine Paules, M.D., say that number of cases is unusual in the course of a year.

The fear is that yellow fever could spread to Brazilian cities for the first time in decades because the areas currently affected by the outbreak are so close to urban areas, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. [2]

Like the Zika virus, yellow fever is spread through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. History has shown that Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and other mosquito-borne illnesses can morph into full-blown epidemics through populations lacking preexisting immunity, which describes the United States.

It was reported last week that Rio de Janeiro state intends to vaccinate its entire population against yellow fever. These diseases could easily spread beyond Brazil via global travel, Fauci and Paules write. [2] [3]

Read: Zika Virus is “Scarier than the CDC Initially Thought”

“In an era of frequent international travel, any marked increase in domestic cases in Brazil raises the possibility of travel related cases and local transmission in regions where yellow fever is not endemic.” [2]

Fortunately, the authors write, there is currently no evidence that human-to-human transmission has occurred through Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in urban areas of Brazil.

The two admit it’s “highly unlikely” the continental U.S. will have to contend with a yellow fever outbreak, but “it is possible that travel-related cases of yellow fever could occur, with brief periods of local transmission in warmer regions such as the Gulf Coast states, where Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are prevalent.”

U.S. territories – including Puerto Rico, which was affected by the Zika outbreak last year – could also be at risk.

Fauci and Paules say doctors in the U.S. should be vigilant in asking patients for recent travel history, and be suspicious of yellow fever if the outbreak spreads to urban areas of Brazil.

“As with all potentially reemerging infectious diseases, public health awareness and preparedness are essential to prevent a resurgence of this historical threat.”

The authors of the letter say yellow fever would be difficult for doctors in the U.S. to identify, because they’ve never had to contend with the virus before. Yellow fever is typically suspected based on clinical presentation and confirmed later, as definitive diagnosis requires testing available only in specialized laboratories.

Around this time last year, an outbreak of yellow fever in Angola had World Health Organization officials concerned that the disease could spread well beyond the country’s borders, but it was fortunately contained.


[1] CBS News

[2] New England Journal of Medicine

[3] New York Daily News

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