The Alajuela Criminal Court imposed eight years in prison on attorney Mario Cerdas Salazar, a 62-year-old defender for cultivation, possession, supply, transformation, and the recreational use of marijuana.
The penalty handed down by the court on the afternoon of November 6th is the minimum provided in article 58 of the Law on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. In turn, it represents four years less than the amount requested by the Deputy Prosecutor.
Judges Alberto García, Giovanni Hernández and Miguel Abarca found Cerdas Salazar guilty of having installed a greenhouse in his house, less than 200 meters from the Alajuela courts of justice, which was used to grow marijuana. At the site, the convicted person had lights, fans and an irrigation system that facilitated the illegal activity.
The prosecuting body was also able to demonstrate that the lawyer later processed the drug to extract tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, an active ingredient in the plant) to make oils, butters and brownies. Both these products and different parts of the plants were then supplied to third parties whom he contacted through social networks or by telephone.
These actions of Cerdas Salazar are located within the drug trafficking cycle and endangered the public health of the people; facts that its defender, José Miguel Villalobos Umaña, rejected during the conclusions of the oral and public debate.
“We, the defense disagree with that position. We believe that Don Mario’s actions did not endanger anyone’s public health. And much less are they located within the circle of drug trafficking. Not at all”, the lawyer said.
The decision-makers justified the sentence imposed on Cerdas Salazar by considering his age, his profession, and that he lacked a prior record. Furthermore, the court said it understood that the illegal activity was not carried out for financial gain.
The sentenced person remains in preventive detention since his arrest on August 8th, 2019, and will remain in that condition until the conviction against him is final. That day, agents of the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) raided his house and his office where they seized:
20 stems with flowering tops with lengths between 90 and 200 centimeters, of which at least 15 of them were from the cannabis sativa plant.
19 branches with lengths between 30 and 40 centimeters, of which at least 15 were from the cannabis sativa plant.
11 cannabis sativa plants planted in pots for processing with lengths between 170 and 215 centimeters.
6,254.29 grams of cannabis sativa plants.
298.84 grams of bite of the cannabis sativa plant.
1,526.63 grams of seeds of the cannabis sativa plant.
27.40 grams of hashish resin, whose origin is the cannabis sativa plant.
11,433.19 grams of liquid which contains THC.
3,892.38 grams of cannabis sativa liquid and plant material which contains THC.
18.33 grams of pasty material with THC.275.37 grams of mix of seeds and sting of the cannabis sativa plant.
Also, on that occasion, the Judicial Police seized a FAL brand assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, a wooden rifle without a visible mark, and a black revolver that, once the investigation proceedings were completed, it was determined that they were not in possession of the lawyer, but lacking permits and registration, its confiscation was ordered – that is, transfer to the property of the State.
Mario Cerdas Salazar has no problem admitting that, since 2013, he began planting cannabis sativa on the terrace of his house. Since then, he has been practically in charge of the Alajuela courts. This action has made him face justice on several occasions, to the point that he was detained for five months in the La Marina jail in San Carlos.
The Alajuela Trial Court, in January 2016, acquitted him of any penalty, considering that to punish the cultivation of marijuana it was necessary to demonstrate the purpose of trafficking, which was never evidenced in his case. That acquittal was confirmed by the San Ramón Court of Appeal in January 2018.
However, the Prosecutor’s Office appealed the decision and argued that at other times the courts had convicted people who cultivated marijuana without the purpose of trafficking being demonstrated.
The Criminal Cassation Chamber rejected the claim and concluded that there were no contradictory antecedents, since the precedents cited by the Public Ministry rather coincide with the case of Cerdas Salazar in terms of the need to demonstrate the purpose of trafficking as the only way to affect public health, and that the cultivation of marijuana is a crime.
“Anyone who is interested in cultivating is aware that he can do it, as long as, it is for personal reasons, of course you cannot think of trading the plant because you could have problems. That is my main recommendation and I would tell them to do it without fear,” has said Cerdas Salazar.
“The regulation will have to come because as the plant is released, it will be used more in different ways. I defend, and I want people not to lose sight, that the right to agriculture, in accordance with our legal system, constitutes absolute freedom,” he said.