The lawyer Mario Cerdas Salazar, defender of marijuana for recreational purposes, will face a trial as of October 26th for apparent cultivation and supply of the drug. For the oral and public debate against the jurist, the Alajuela Criminal Court scheduled until November 4th, according to the Supreme Court of Justice in its weekly press bulletin.
Cerdas has been discounting pretrial detention since his arrest on August 8th, 2019. On that day, the Narcotics Unit of the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) led an operation in the lawyer’s home and office, which aimed to capture him for the sixth time and seize evidence for the case against him under file 18-004676-057-PE.
This case was opened on December 21st, 2018, when the Alajuela Deputy Prosecutor’s Office detected that Cerdas – apparently – planted marijuana on his property – just 100 meters from the local courts – then sold it in four ways:
In the raids, the police seized 12 marijuana plants, 8 kilos of cryptos, 2 kilos of seed, as well as leaves and stems of the drug, lamps, a fan, electrical equipment, an oven and a kitchen were also seized that, it is suspected, were used for the cultivation of the plant and its transformation into different presentations.
As part of the investigation carried out against the lawyer, it was determined that he only allowed people of great confidence to enter his house, presumably, so that the elements that he had for planting and supplying marijuana could not be observed.
On August 8th, 2019, the then head of the Agency in Alajuela, Álvaro González Quirós, explained that the proceedings in this case were carried out after following up with his alleged clients.
“During our investigation, it is found that this person, according to the police hypothesis, used as a ruse to sell certain roots of marijuana plants as a hoax, at least to simulate or cover up his activity, so which today, after the investigation, we were able to verify that he is dedicated to the sale of narcotics,” said the official.
A long legal battle
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 constant in and out of the Alajuela courts. His actions has made him face justice on various 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 in terms of the need to demonstrate the purpose of trafficking as the only way to affect the public health, and that the cultivation of marijuana is a crime.
At that time, Cerdas indicated that his hobby for growing marijuana was for personal use. “Anyone who is interested in growing is aware that they can do it as long as it is for personal use, that they are clear that they cannot think of trading with the plant because it could mean legal problems. That is my main recommendation and I would tell people to do it without fear,” said the lawyer.
On that occasion, in August 2018, Cerdas said that at some point the country must access the correct regulation. “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 our absolute freedom,” he said.