Jan 6, 2022 - Economy

Indigenous communities in Mexico replace corn crops with cannabis

Photo of a person standing in a field of crops

Regina Hernández, a member of the collective Oaxaca Highlands/Association of Indigenous Cannabis Growers. Photo: Noticias Telemundo

Indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, are replacing corn crops with cannabis in anticipation of marijuana being legalized in the country.

What’s happening: Ten communities in the sierra formed the collective Oaxaca Highlands and are in the process of obtaining growing permits.

  • They plan to use the plant to sell products containing CBD, dishes flavored with cannabis seed, and clothes and beer made with hemp.
  • A Mexican Supreme Court decision last year eased the rules for receiving licenses to grow medicinal cannabis, which is legal.
  • A national bill that would decriminalize cannabis for recreational purposes has been approved by the lower house and a Senate vote is anticipated for the legislative period that starts in February.

The big picture: The Oaxacan growers say there is Indigenous vindication in growing the cannabis themselves and profiting directly.

  • The Oaxaca and Guerrero highlands have for many years been exploited by drug-trafficking organizations that force local residents to tend drug crops for them and to pick opium poppy for heroin sold in the U.S.
  • That created a stigma against Indigenous peoples who grew marijuana, despite records of native groups having done so for traditional and medicinal purposes since the 16th century.
  • The collective hopes the permits will help to generate legal job opportunities so fewer Oaxacans will need to migrate north.

Go deeper: Mexico moves closer to legalizing marijuana

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