The Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica approved on Tuesday the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, despite opposition from the president, Carlos Alvarado, and conservative groups in the Central American country.
The production and processing of cannabis was approved with the vote of 58% of the 57 seats, although it is still prohibited for recreational consumption, according to the text of the law, proposed in 2019 against the criteria of the Minister of Security, Michael Soto.
“This law marks a milestone because it opens a new market that would benefit the agricultural sector, affected in recent years, but it is far from being a gateway for drug use. I trust that President Alvarado has understood and will not veto it” said independent deputy Zoila Volio, one of the proponents of the law.
The process of the law has pending the Alvarado seal. If the president rejects it, he would force the deputies to repeat the vote to put the law into effect but, this time, he would need the endorsement of the qualified majority.
Convenient and necessary
The approval of the Legislative Assembly also includes the food and industrial use of hemp, a strain of cannabis that Alvarado has supported since 2020 as a possible factor of economic reactivation after the COVID-19 Pandemic. “It is a late and limited step, but convenient and necessary to generate wealth. We have lost market while other countries have already traveled,” said Volio.
In recent years, other countries in the region such as Canada, Colombia, Uruguay, and some states in the United States have legalized the use of marijuana for some purposes, from recreational to medicinal to scientific.
Hemp production in Costa Rica will be free, but medical marijuana production will require licenses issued by the Ministry of Health, 40% of which must remain in the hands of small producers. Those with a disease may also produce it for self-consumption, with a permit.
The deputies who proposed the project ruled out advancing in the legalization of the open consumption of marijuana, a possibility supported by 40% of the population, according to a recent survey conducted by the University of Costa Rica.