This past April, Mexico’s government began the process of legalizing cannabis as medicine, increasing the total number of countries legal for medicine to 52.
It will take nine months to configure ordinances, with Reuters reporting that THC will be named as a beneficial component of the plant; with CBD and other compounds within the plant approved for medicinal use and research.
My history with Mexico dates back to the 1960s, as my family vacationed regularly in Baja California. We’d drive the few hours from Redondo Beach in Southern California and stay in the Hotel Del Sol, still located in downtown Ensenada.
We’d eat great food, ride horses on the beach, and get our dental work done in a clinic that mirrored the dental offices at home – for a fraction of the price.
When I was a Girl Scout we held clothing drives and my mom and dad would drive a few wide-eyed young girls across the border to Tijuana. We’d traverse down dirt roads into rows of cardboard shacks that lined the city’s perimeter at the time; handing out bags of clothes to those in need.
Witnessing how they lived was a lesson in humility and empathy I couldn’t get anywhere else, and to this day I like to believe the act has left me with a giving and sympathetic heart.
I never feared coming down to Mexico, and I still don’t. The Mexican people who served us were gracious and kind. I never felt like a tourist, I felt like I belonged – it was my home away from home, and still is.
Years later, I’d hear stories about a friend of my favorite Aunt, held in a Tijuana jail for attempting to smuggle weed across the border in the early 1950s. Evidently, it wasn’t his first time and wouldn’t be his last.
Rumor had it my Aunt helped him escape; making plans with him in visiting “concubine” quarters – the two of them conspiring on a thin, dirty mattress on the floor. I’m not sure how the whole thing played out, but he did escape to freedom.
When you are a full-fledged patient, traveling can be challenging. But the truth of the matter is, where there are humans, there is cannabis. Even in a non-tolerant, illegal country, the plant prevails and is easily found.
Mexico is no different, in fact, the people of Mexico have known about the medicinal benefits of cannabis long before the US was a country, and its elders still make topical tincture from the plant for aches and pains.
Pharmacies or farmacias are popular in Mexico. Americans frequent them often, as no prescription is needed for most of the medications offered. Pain and sleeping pills are common purchases, with Viagra signs prominently displayed.
While perusing a farmacia in Ensenada, I came across a jar of salve with a big cannabis leaf on the label and the word “marijuana” clearly listed as a major ingredient.
I asked the pharmacist if this really had marijuana in it, to which he replied, "si" (yes), to which I asked, "is it legal?" and he said, “No,” with a laugh.
I then asked why he sells it. “Because it works,” was his only response, with a wink and a knowing nod.
The ingredients also listed arnica, glucosamine, and other plant-based concentrates known to have anti-inflammatory properties – the same as cannabis. Though it was weaker than what I have made at home or have purchased in a dispensary, it did ease the chronic pain in my knee and lower back.
Above: Farmacias are popular with Americans, as prescriptions are not needed for most medications.
In Mexico, the farmacias seem to cater mostly to Americans and tourists from other countries, but if you keep looking, you’ll soon find just as many “botanica” shops that are filled with plant-based medicines, bulk herbs, and combinations of plant-based remedies for specific ailments.
Hot water infusions are the oldest and easiest way to extract beneficial oils from plants, and it’s curious to note that the selection of teas in the grocery stores is limited, as the people use tea as medicine.
Above: Grocery stores in Mexico, such as the Calimax chain, carry a good amount of herbal remedies.
Highly beneficial plants such as chamomile, lemon balm, and a blend called Siete Azahares or Seven Blossoms, which includes Passion Flower, Linden Flower, Rose Petals, Chamomile, Anise Seeds, and Tilo Star, is said to be helpful for sleep, digestive issues, and more.
Via la Mexico and its people for keeping plant-based medicine alive and creating safe access for its people of my favorite herb, cannabis. The poorest people in the world don’t look to big pharma to ease their pain; they go to the garden for help – a place we’ve wandered away from for far too long.
Above: Botanica shops are common and sell a wide variety of herbal remedies.
Photos by Sharon Letts