The lower house of Mexico’s Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill that would legalize cannabis for medical and scientific uses. The measure gathered 371 votes in favor, just seven votes against, and 11 abstentions. The bill, which aims to classify the psychoactive component of cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as a “therapeutic,” was passed in Mexico’s Senate this in December. The next step for the bill is to head to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s desk, where it’s fully expected to be signed into law.

Last year, Pena Nieto, who has been a supporter of the legalization and decriminalization effort, commented during a gathering of world leaders that the global strategy of fighting drug use needed revisiting. He’s also gone on record as suggesting that the U.S. and Mexico must be on the same page when it comes to marijuana policies.

This is big news for marijuana stocks, even if Mexico’s black market is massive as a result of its drug cartels. Legalizing medical weed would give pot-based businesses yet another avenue to legally sell their product beyond Canada and the 28 U.S. states that have legalized physicians to prescribe the drug.

According to Stuart Titus, the CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc. (NASDAQOTH:MJNA), a Southern California-based provider of industrial hemp products, legalizing medical marijuana in Mexico represents a “$1 billion to $2 billion opportunity” in cumulative revenue over the next decade, according to an interview with Fortune.

Of course, Medical Marijuana is no stranger to operating in Mexico. HempMeds Mexico, which is Medical Marijuana’s distribution branch in the country, was the first company to be allowed to import cannabis products into Mexico (non-psychoactive cannabidiol products, not THC). The bill currently working its way through Mexico’s legislative branches will merely make the infrastructure Medical Marijuana has laid in Mexico all the more effective — and potentially profitable.

Mexico’s medical marijuana legalization efforts also come shortly after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada introduced a bill to legalize recreational weed. The demand for legal pot, be it medical or recreational, is exploding right before investors’ eyes, and producers with the capacity to expand their operations could benefit in a big way.

Admittedly, most pot stocks still aren’t turning a profit, which means investors would be wise to keep their expectations in check when it comes to this incredibly volatile, risky sector. However, with the green rush taking shape, investors can’t help but be excited about what could very well be the fastest-growing industry over the long term in North America.

courtesy of The Motley Fool