By Maria McIntyre, Cannabis Strategic Operations Business Manager at bioMérieux, Inc.
Interviewing: Jorge J. Rubio Escolona, former Chief of Staff at the Mexican Health Institute
Medical cannabis has been legal in Mexico since January of 2017, but the Mexican government did not publish regulations for the medical marijuana program until four years later, in January of this year. We spoke to Jorge J. Rubio Escolona for an inside look at the future of cannabis quality and safety in Mexico now that a regulatory framework is in place.
Can you explain the cannabis quality and safety landscape in Mexico over the last several years?
There has been no quality and safety evolution for the last several years. A delay of more than three years by the Ministry of Health to create a legal framework after the approval of medical cannabis by the Mexican National Congress in 2017 makes a very complicated pathway for the industry. Once approved, the regulations are expected to rapidly surface to support the local and global business opportunities.
What are some challenges surrounding cannabis and its regulation in Mexico?
Lack of education around cannabis and prohibition make it very difficult to understand the scope and extent of the industry. The illegal Mexican CBD marketplace is also full of products with no testing or quality assurance, and price gouging makes it very difficult for thousands of potential patients to access even those products. Policymakers have concerns related to security and the illegal market, which affect the types of regulations that are passed and implemented. Additionally, the government will face challenges in processing licenses due to limitations on budget, people, and expertise in the cannabis industry.
What does the long-term approach for medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp testing look like?
The regulatory framework set up in January 2021 established several guidelines for testing and traceability for the medical cannabis industry. It will be a compulsory policy for the entire industry to comply with guidelines by the COFERPRIS (Federal Committee for Protection from Sanitary Risks) and the Ministry of Agriculture, including important future topics: quality assurance, security, seeds authorization, growing plans, control books, indoor growing rooms, facility characteristics, monitoring, pest control, and traceability policies. Hemp policies are not currently included.
With a new regulatory landscape, what trends do you anticipate?
I will advise companies with market access in Mexico using the experiences and best practices gained from my work in Canada and market knowledge.
I anticipate that the Mexican market will initially be dependent on the import of raw materials, seeds, technology, and final products by international companies. On the other hand, international investors need to understand all of the regulatory aspects, and I see opportunities in joint ventures and alliances between companies.
Any companies interested in process cannabis derivatives are a key stakeholder in the development of the Mexican cannabis industry. Market data is also important to see consumer trends, patient data, and medical prescriptions. This data is currently lacking since the market is emerging.
What will be the immediate needs for safety and quality testing of cannabis in Mexico?
There is a strong need for safe and quality product. The needs of the industry are focused on cannabinoid potency, pesticide analysis, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and bacteria/ microbiology testing. Mexicans need to understand that quality and safety testing are critical for all cannabis consumption. For this, awareness and education is needed. This will follow established regulations, which are anticipated six to nine months after legislation is passed.
This communication is intended for a United States audience only.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of bioMérieux, Inc.