On Thursday, March 9th, Mexico’s nascent legal cannabis industry welcomed its first company authorized to grow at a commercial scale, focused on a booming niche market that mostly sidesteps the mind-altering qualities of the plant’s flowers.
The local unit of Canada’s Xebra Brands is the first company to obtain permits to cultivate, process, produce, and market cannabis in Mexico, the firm said in a statement.
The authorizations mark the latest step in a major shift away from Mexico’s decades-long criminalization of the plant that was once a major source of revenue for powerful drug gangs.
However, in a potential setback, Mexico’s health regulator COFEPRIS said later on Thursday in a joint statement with the interior ministry that officials could not vouch for the safety of the company’s plans.
The statement added that the agencies will seek to cancel the authorizations due to the health risk they pose.
The health regulator had to approve the permits after Mexico’s Supreme Court in late 2021 gave Xebra Brands’ subsidiary Desart MX a partial green light to import seeds, and grow, process, sell, and export cannabis products with 1% or less THC, the plant’s psychoactive substance.
Desart MX, however, is more focused on marketing products with another of the plant’s components known as cannabidiol, or CBD, which does not make users high but is used to treat ailments such as insomnia, pain, and anxiety.
COFEPRIS granted final approval in late February, the company said.
Xebra Brands said it faces no restrictions on where it can grow cannabis in Mexico, the size of cultivation facilities, or processing volumes.
“This represents an important moment for cannabis globally,” Xebra Brands CEO Jay Garnett said in the statement.
Xebra Brands said it is actively looking for farmland and a site to build an extraction facility to produce CBD-rich hemp derivatives.
In an interview with Reuters in late 2021, the firm’s former president said regulatory authorizations would position Mexico as the industry’s most important North American player.
In 2021, Mexican lawmakers approved a law to decriminalize cannabis for recreational, scientific, medical, and industrial uses, but key regulations remain stalled in the Senate.