Mexican Senate leader suggests postponing debate on landmark cannabis bill

FILE PHOTO: An activist in favor of legalized marijuana lights a marijuana cigarette during a march as they wait for the Congress to pass a bill that would legalize it, in Mexico City, Mexico March 9, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's Senate majority leader said on Thursday lawmakers may postpone the debate on a landmark bill that would decriminalize cannabis, a potential setback to creating one of the world's largest markets for the plant.

The bill, already approved by the lower house, could instead be picked up by the Senate in September, Ricardo Monreal, who leads President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), told a news conference.

Monreal cited "inconsistencies" in the legislation due to modifications made by the lower house before it was approved on March 10.

"I prefer ... that we give ourselves a pause, some time," Monreal.

"The Senate must act with a lot of caution on this one," he said, adding that various companies and lobbyists were arguing for their interests.

The bill, which Congress approved with 316 votes in favor and 127 against, is backed by Lopez Obrador's administration and marks a major shift in a country bedeviled for years by violence between drug cartels.

If passed, the law would decriminalize cannabis for recreational, medical and scientific uses, creating a huge market that foreign companies are eager to tap.

Monreal said that the Supreme Court, which had given Congress until Dec. 15 to approve the regulations, should extend its deadline.

(Reporting by Raul Cortes; writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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