America is becoming a monkey in the middle when it comes to marijuana legalization in North America. Canada is going all-the-way legal next year and this week Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a decree legalizing medical cannabis across the country, as reported by The Washington Post.

But fans of medical marijuana and/or narcotic decriminalization may be a little premature if they start the celebration now. Like its neighbor to the north, Mexico too has a labyrinthine, confusing bureaucracy in place to make sure new rollouts in government policy happen neither quickly nor smoothly.

While Peña Nieto’s decree does legalize MMJ in Mexico, in effect it’s more like a plan to have a plan to have medical marijuana in the country. The policy calls for the Ministry of Health to basically create a medical cannabis program wholecloth, with a new set of regulations and strategy regarding the implementation of “the medicinal use of pharmacological derivatives of cannabis sativa, indica and Americana or marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinol.” That could take awhile.

The agency is also tasked with researching marijuana to see how it actually works in medical treatment (since many other countries, such as the U.S., are reluctant to legalize cannabis research).

While the measure found overwhelming support in the Mexican government (it passed in the Lower House of Congress 347-7), one place it doesn’t have support is among Mexican citizens. A poll found that 66 percent of Mexicans oppose marijuana decriminalization.

In a fervently Catholic nation, the Holy C wrote in a news editorial decrying efforts to legalize marijuana in any form. “A drug is a drug even if it’s sold as a soft medicinal balm. Bad Mexican copycats emulate the neighbor to put on the table of ‘sane democracy’ a bleak, absurd and counterproductive debate,” it said. “Recreational marijuana is a placebo to ease the pain of the social destruction in which we irremediably wallow.” Yikes!

Even President Peña Nieto at one time opposed drug legalization, but has lately changed his tune in step with other Mexican politicians. He now says he considers drug use and addiction a “public health problem” instead of a criminal one. The president has even called out for similar legislation in other countries. “We must move beyond prohibition to effective prevention,” Pena Nieto told the General Assembly Special Sessions earlier this year. “So far, the solutions implemented by the international community have been frankly insufficient.”

Photo via Flickr user Dank Depot