In recent years, Mexico’s leaders have driven a movement to legalize cannabis. In 2017, President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a bill legalizing cannabis for medical use. In 2018, Miguel Torruco, Mexico’s Tourism Minister, called for recreational use on a state-by-state basis. In the same year, former President Vicente Fox held a cannabis conference with high-level government, scientific, and business leaders in Guanajuato. On today’s show, the former president’s right-hand man, Juan Garcia of Red Eagle Global Resources, joins Tony Frischknecht to talk about finally ending the cannabis prohibition in Mexico. He shares his insight on why Mexico has no other choice but to legalize the recreational consumption of cannabis at the federal level, and why Mexico’s cannabis industry could soon be fertile ground.
Listen to the podcast here:
Ending The Prohibition In Mexico With Juan Garcia
I hope everybody’s doing fantastic. I know I am excited about this episode. I’ve got somebody I am excited about sharing with you. There has been a lot of stuff happening south and north of the border. I’m planning on focusing a little bit more on the south of the border now. We definitely hear little bits and pieces through our media about what’s happening in Mexico, but I think there’s so much missed and that’s why I have this gentleman on with us. We met in I believe it was back in 2015. There was a fundraiser that I ran across with the Governor in Denver and the former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox. This was about a 24-hour event.
We had a nice dinner at the Governor’s Mansion. They had about 200 people, so it was busy. This was probably one of my first big events where I was throwing on a nice suit and tie. I’m like, “Here I am. I’m in the cannabis world. Let’s see what these big fundraisers are about.” I had done some in the past, but I had never met governors and presidents before. It was exciting for me at the time. I had brought along a few friends of mine that were in the industry as well. Fundraisers aren’t cheap. They’re raising this stuff for a reason and there’s a purpose for this, but it also allows you to rub elbows with some guys, some movers, and shakers, people that are making policy, which is critical in our industry.
You have to know those types of people that can help you navigate through the legal channel as well as find new opportunities. We had a beautiful dinner at the Governor’s Mansion and then the following day we met at the Four Seasons in Downtown Denver for breakfast. There were my four guys and then fifteen other people. We listened to what President Fox had to say about what was going on with the cannabis market in Mexico. I was excited because we were going to get a chance to sit down and meet the president one-on-one, which was a little intimidating at the time. When we went through the process, one of my business partners and I sat down and to my left was the president and to my right was his right-hand man.
I have gotten to know this gentleman over the last few years and he is extremely well-connected with Mexico and what is on the forefront. I think on a weekly basis, he knows what’s happening. I’m extremely excited to have him here with us. He definitely is on the cutting edge of what’s happening in Mexico and he’s got a huge logistics background. He worked for FedEx for several decades. He runs a consulting firm and he does a number of things. I want to introduce you to Juan Garcia from Red Eagle Global. Juan, how are you doing?
I’m doing well, Tony. How are you?
I’m fantastic. Thanks for being on. I know you will have some awesome information to share with the audience. Juan, you’ve been around the political scene for a long time in Mexico. What was your motivation to get into the big cannabis side as you were seeing it unfold in the US?
Tony, I think I’ve told you this story before, but it bears repeating. Before I get into that, let me give you a little preamble for your audience. What I’m going to share with them and with you is my opinion as to where Mexico is in the massive cannabis industry and how I got into it, which is an interesting story within itself. On December 27, 2017, I received a phone call at 3:00 in the morning Central Time from President Fox. He woke me up. I’m a father of three and a grandfather of twelve. I thought something had happened to one of my kids, but it was President Fox. He says, “Juan, I’ve arrived at a decision.” I was a little bit miffed because you don’t want to wake an old guy up at 3:00 in the morning. That’s uncalled for.
My retort was, “Mr. President, you couldn’t pick a more decent hour to tell me that you made a decision?” His response was, “I forgot that I’m in Barcelona and I’m eight hours ahead of you.” I said, “Obviously, you did forget. What decision did you arrive at?” He says, “I have decided to be the voice of reason for the elimination of the prohibition of marijuana and cannabis in the hemisphere starting with Mexico.” I said, “Congratulations. What does that have to do with me?” He says, “You’re going to help me build it.” He didn’t ask. He said, “You will help me build it,” and that’s how it all started.
That seems like an early morning call to deal with at the time. That was a lot to handle, I’m sure. I also know from our discussions in the past, you have a deep relationship with the president that goes on for a long time. You’ve been there by his side for many changes in his life. Being the right-hand man of a president has to be exciting but also taxed at the same time. Am I correct in saying that?
It’s all volunteerism on my behalf. I made a commitment to him and Mrs. Fox. I would help them harvest money for their foundation, which is a portion through the Charisma Foundation for the Children and the Elderly in Mexico. I’ve kept my word. I’ve done my best to harvest as much money as I could in support of the foundation. When President Fox decided to get into the cannabis industry, we started developing the CannaMexico Conference, which you’ve been to a couple of installments of that conference, Tony. We try to do the best that we could to make it a business-to-business conference like none other. Unfortunately, COVID-19 got in the way and we couldn’t have the conference, but it’s on the shelf. As soon as things settle down, we’ll be doing it again.
What’s happening now since you’re not promoting and you’re not having CannaMexico. I will have to say the first year I attended, it was an incredible event. You guys did a top tier job. Thank you for having me and introducing me to the Mexico market. I appreciate that. Where does that leave you now with your adjusting to the new situation?
The new normal, as the media keeps pounding us with that term, only means that Mexico has to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. They have no choice. It’s for economic reasons, COVID not only shut down businesses in the United States, but it also shut down businesses in Mexico. If you know anything about the Mexican economy, you know that there’s a large percentage of the population that is self-employed. You have a lot of restaurants that closed down, a lot of salons. A lot of the same stuff that happened in the United States happened in Mexico. It exacerbated the economic calamity and recession that the country is biting itself in. My opinion is that Mexico has no other choice but to legalize marijuana for recreational use and from that point on, start taxing it from the foreign entities that are coming in. The issue of sanitary risks. You were one of the guys that took the initiative and went on to Mexico City after the first CannaMexico Conference and sat in front of the COFEPRIS and tried to get yourself put in line for a license.
For the audience out there, the COFEPRIS is the Department of Health in Mexico that he’s discussing. Like it is here in the US, they have to go through the proper channels and that’s starting with the Department of Health.
For economic reasons, Mexico has to legalize marijuana at the federal level. You know how the rumor mill gets started, Tony. Somebody decides that “I know what’s going on,” and they sent a message out there. The latest rumor is that Mexico was not going to legalize it until December 1, 2020. It’s my opinion that it is nothing more than a rumor. The information that I have is that legalization will happen no later than July 15, 2020. I have information that I cannot share but without compromising my sources. I can tell you this. The country has to do it. They have no choice.
You seem certain.
I’m either nuts or I’m vindicated. I’m committed to making that public. My opinion is that by July 15, 2020, Mexico will have legalized the recreational consumption of marijuana at the federal level.
With that knowledge, there have to be some US companies that are trying to capitalize on that. Are you seeing that happening?
I’m seeing a myriad of Canadian and US citizens coming into Mexico City specifically. They’re trying to figure out who they need to talk to at the front doors of the Mexican Senate when they were in session to see who would give them an aperture in the door to get a leg up on getting in. The COFEPRIS is no longer handling that function. I’m seeing a lot of individuals clamoring for attention and trying to figure out how they can get their samples in front of the right people to be able to get a license application in place to start plying their wares in Mexico ahead of the December 1, 2020, supposed initiation date. It’s going to be much sooner than December 1, 2020. July 15, 2020, is the date that I got.
I know that people that are reading the blog if you do have some interest, I would expect or express you should take a deep dive into what’s happening in Mexico if you are working down there. Juan, that’s got to be incredibly difficult to find out the right channels. We had met with you doing some consulting. Is this something that you’re helping people along with? Are you in the chase for yourself?
I am in it to win it, as the old saying goes. I’m trying to help Canadian, US, and world corporations with my Red Eagle Company to establish themselves in the country. I can’t tell you that I have a seat at the table already, but I will tell you that my daily endeavors are arriving at that seat at the table in the Mexican government. It’s to be able to bring my clients into Mexico from whatever origin country they may be from in the cannabis space. It’s to be able to get them licensed and permitted to import into Mexico and to start selling products in Mexico. Also, it’s to be able to cultivate on Mexican soil their particular strains and genetic strains of cannabis. I am far ahead of where I was a few years ago when I got dragged to the cannabis altar by President Fox screaming and fighting. The last time that I even smoked a joint or had anything to do with marijuana was when I was in the military. I did one tour of duty overseas. To alleviate stress, we would smoke marijuana. That was the last time. That was back in 1971.
Back then, was it still a lot for you? From what it sounds like, it was challenging for you even at the time to do it, but you didn’t have another choice. Is that correct?
That’s correct. I didn’t feel bad that I was doing that to alleviate the stress of being in a war zone, but that was the last time in 1971. Run the clock forward to 2018 or 2017 when I got that call from President Fox and I’m asking myself, “I’ve had a twenty-year career as a corporate citizen. I am now representing as a senior advisor of nine former heads of state from Mexico, Central, and South American countries. Now, I’m going to get back into something that I left behind back in 1971. It was an oxymoron.Mexico is a large country that is very much homeopathic, where people believe that cannabis has a curative effect on humans. Click To Tweet
It’s crazy what life does to us.
Never mind what my wife said to me. When I told her about it, she was like, “Have you lost your mind?” The important thing to note is that Mexico, in my opinion, is going to represent an opportunity for the people that are reading this blog to be able to get into a $5 billion market in Mexico. Mexico is a large country that is very much a homeopathic type of country as far as their health care is concerned. People self-medicate in Mexico. People believe in the curative values of the Sativa plant. They believe that marijuana has a curative effect on the human unit. It’s a ready-made receptive market that can be robust for those entrepreneurs that decide to get into it.
Those entrepreneurs, I try to give them a good idea of what they’re up against, showing up to Mexico and trying to get their product or get their growth. What hurdles do they have to go through in order to connect with the right people?
That is the top question of the day. You, as an entrepreneur, and let me say this, I admired you for your courage. You left the presidential compound from the CannaMexico Conference. You flew directly into Mexico City, and went and made an appointment with the then COFEPRIS in Mexico City. You don’t speak Spanish. You took the initiative and you went there based on your desire to get at the front of the line. That is not going to work this time around because the COFEPRIS is no longer in existence. The name of the institution is Instituto Mexicano del Cannabis, the Mexican Institute of Cannabis is what it’s being called. It’s newly formed by President AMLO and Senator Olga Sanchez Cordero and Senator Marcelo Ebrard who are members of the MORENA Party, which is the party that President AMLO represents.
Those two senators are the ones that created the Institute for Cannabis in Mexico. Those two senators are the ones that are drafting the rules of engagement for foreign entities trying to get into Mexico to ply their wares. Those two senators are the ones that carry the big stick. Who do you think I’m chasing? Those two senators. My ability to be able to get in front of those senators based on my bilingualism and my having spent the first few years of my formative life growing up in Mexico. I learned English later on in my youth. Spanish was my first language. I retained most of it and I’ve kept up with it even in my corporate career. I’m the guy that was credited with bringing FedEx to Mexico. In fact, I met Vicente Fox when he was President of Coca-Cola Latin America and I made a sales call on him. I grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, which is about two hours by driving my car from the presidential compound where you were at with me at that CannaMexico Conference.
The President of Coca-Cola Central America, was that a shock to you?
Not really because I had always heard that there was this dynamic personality in business that worked for Coca-Cola that I needed to meet. I said, “I got to meet this guy. Who the heck is he? Everybody speaks highly of him.” I went and sought him out. When he found out that I had grown up the first few years of my life in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Guanajuato State is where Vicente Fox was from, we hit it off. It was common ground to build on. Many years later, we have a robust relationship.
Having a friend for many years blows my mind a little bit. He’s a close friend of yours at this point. How did that conversation end up as you were talking to the president?
He made a comment. He said, “For a gringo, you sure do speak good Spanish.” That’s when I told him my story. He says, “No wonder. You grew up in the saintly land that I grew up in.” He is nationalistic in his way of doing things and business. He’s a true blue Mexican. He will die for the flag. He’ll die for the citizens of Mexico. He almost did because he was a guy that broke the 70-plus year rule of the PRI Party in Mexico because he was the candidate for the PAN Party. Nobody gave him a chance in Hades of ever becoming the top guy in Mexico, but he won. He surprised even himself.
Here in the States, we’ve seen a lot of him, especially since Trump got elected. What’s amazing about him as a person is, he is very much himself in front of the camera as well as when you meet him face-to-face.
He’s a real individual.
I was extremely fortunate for him to accept the offer of writing my foreword for my book. That was incredible. He simply was doing it for the better good of the industry. There are few people out there like that. I want to thank you for also continuing to bring me along, understand what the president is up to and how he’s doing.
It would be an appropriate moment to say to you that the presidential library and the hotel that’s right next door to it that you stayed in, they’re in crisis mode. Because of this COVID-19, all activities have ceased on the compound. Those revenue streams that were coming through from all the visitors and all the people that were doing special events at the pavilion where we had the CannaMexico Conference, all of that is dormant because of the COVID-19. The foundation depends on those funds or the vitality of what they’re doing for the children and the old people of Mexico. If I had one request of you as a friend of the Fox brand is that we think of ways to be able to bring some vitality once the travel ban has been lifted to the compound down in Mexico. You’ve been there. It’s a wonderful place.
How do people give to help support his efforts? People may not know it, but he has taken what his family has created and donated to the foundation to keep this thing going as he’s gone for generations. He’s given up a majority of his wealth to help better Mexico. That’s what’s amazing about him in that way is that he is entrepreneurial. He’s always trying to bring people from other countries into the Mexican economy to help build it and help trade across border trade. If there are people that are like, “How can I help? What can I do to share?” is there a site that they can go to check out? Is there a person they can contact you if they’re reading this and they’re saying, “I’d like to look into this a little bit more because I’m interested in trying to help out?”
The phone number I’m going to give is from our offices of Red Eagle in Red Oak, Texas. It’s a toll-free number that can be accessed from anywhere in the country. It’s (800) 214-0639. If you want to fax, it’s (800) 930-7112. I’m in the midst of drafting another white paper on the cannabis situation in Mexico in 2020. I’ll put those contact coordinates in that white paper when I send it to you for public consumption for those readers of your blog. I’m also going to put on there my email address for anybody that wants to contact me via email. If they have an interest in going into Mexico in the cannabis space, I’ll be glad to take their case on once I review whatever they send me via email.
They could reach out to somebody at the 1-800 number as well if they want to contact you there too.
It’s not open 24/7, but it is during normal business hours. We do have someone that answers the phone there. That number rings in Red Oak, Texas, which is a suburb of Dallas, and my business partner, Attorney James Moon, is where I office at his building in Red Oak.
There’s a lot of information you gave us. I’m amazed by the deadline and July 15, 2020, that’s incredible. Also, to give the audience a little bit more information, I have gone through this process. I didn’t complete it because I had some other things that changed the direction I was heading, but I did start the process. For those ones that are vigilant and want to do it themselves, I’m sure there is a way, but the only way I can think of because of my experience there is if you embed yourself into a place like Mexico City. It’s not something that you can do from afar. The cultures are much different from the US to Mexico. For any of the Mexicans that are reading, they know what I’m talking about.
This is such a tough thing to navigate. You’re not only navigating an entirely different country, but you’re navigating regulations that you’re not used to. We have that in the States as well, but not knowing the language well and not knowing the culture makes it twice as hard. If you are truly interested in doing something like that or bringing a product to Mexico, I urge you to reach out to a company like Red Eagle Global because this is what they do. Juan’s got logistics training all over Mexico so he knows dozens and dozens of people down there, but he also can cut to the chase, saving time. As a business owner and entrepreneur, time is money.
If you’re the guy on the back end and you’re starting 1, 2, 6 months or a year later, there are guys way out in front of you. If you want to get up to the table, sit with the big guys and make your product get to market, this is something that I highly suggest you look into. Juan, I want to thank for sharing that information. I would love to have people reach out to you. That number again is 1-800-214-0639. As well as reaching out to Juan, you can help fund the Fox Foundation in this tough time. Mexico has the poverty rate, and forgive me if this is the incorrect number, but I believe it still is at 50%. Is it even more now?
It’s more than that.
Poverty is truly happening down there on a completely different level than what you see here in the US. These people struggle. There’s no running water and they can’t get water a lot of the time. Keep that in mind when you’re looking at if you want to put your funds to something. President Fox, I have donated to them and they put it towards helping the people of Mexico. That’s their main goal. Anyone, if you have any questions, please visit PlantProblem.com and I would love it if you give me a review. Also, ask me questions about this show. I’d love to get Juan back on again to discuss something more in-depth. He’s a wealth of knowledge and a great guy. Juan, thank you. I look forward to speaking with you soon.
Thank you. You take care, Tony.
About Juan Garcia
Juan A. Garcia is considered the multi-national premier entrepreneur from Texas, has developed a very robust client list in the United States and Latin America, comprised of some of the most “forward thinking” enterprises that are still in operation today. Juan A. Garcia is known for his “can do spirit” and “unwillingness to accept mediocrity” when representing his clients. Renowned for his keen sense of business trending, Juan Garcia has advised senior executives in numerous industries who have sought out his counsel in developing strategies for launching their brand in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. Blessed with an innate ability to drill down to the core issues within business situations he is sought out by many business people in the United States and foreign countries.
Juan A. Garcia is currently involved in the development of sustainable and renewable technologies in water, electricity, and lighting areas that will help commercial and governmental entities reduce their human carbon footprint to assist in cleaning up the environment. He has commissioned the development of technologies that will help in the creation of clean water and the saving of energy.