For some time up to now, Costa Rica has debated a bill for the cultivation of marijuana which, until now has not had any agreement. In various countries of the world (Uruguay, Netherlands, Portugal, the United States -specifically the states of Colorado and Washington) the production of the Cannabis Sativa or Marijuana plant is totally legal.

The Costa Rica News recently interviewed a specialist in this subject, attorney Carolina Vargas, who stressed that there is a bill with the purpose of regulating the research and control of cannabis and hemp plants for the medicinal, food and industrial sector. Bill 19256 entered the Legislative Assembly in 2014 and is still under review. In November 2017, the text was largely replaced.

Should Marijuana be legalized?

This project does not authorize self-cultivation, mainly because the intention is to develop more research in the country so that in the case of health, patients can access the appropriate medicines.

“It is known that the ratio between CBD and THC, as well as the type or strain, is very variable and serves to address different medical conditions. When dealing with serious health conditions, the people who promoted the bill, consider that it should be done with medicines regulated and marketed properly”.

The controversial case about the cultivation of marijuana

The controversial case of Costa Rican lawyer Mario Alberto Cerdas, who grew marijuana on the roof of his house 50 meters from the offices of the Judicial Investigation Agency, began in 2015 where he faced an accusation that could have lead to 24 years in prison. The prosecutor argued in the trial that allowing the cultivation could lead to citizens growing marijuana in their homes in a public and notorious manner without the authorities being able to do anything about it.

“Mr. Cerdas was acquitted on June 29th, 2018. The Criminal Cassation Chamber considered that the prosecution failed to prove that there was any danger to public health since the purpose was not trafficking or commerce, but did not expressly say that cultivation was not a crime. “He owned more than 70 marijuana plants at the time of the seizure”, informed Vargas.

Beyond the legal realm

The legalization of Marijuana can go beyond the legal issue, because the Minister of Health of Costa Rica, Giselle Amador Muñoz, declared that it is a good option to legalize the medicinal Cannabis plant, for medical purposes. Amador said that through a commission involving the University of Costa Rica (UCR), the Costa Rican Institute on Drugs (ICD) and the Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (IAFA), an analysis has been made of the use of the plant as medicine, stating “There is a lot of clarity on the subject”, she also said that “many people in the country already consume marijuana for medicinal purposes”.

Medicinal benefits of marijuana

For Minister Giselle Amador, this plant would be approved for smoking purposes but rather its consumption would be through drops, creams, pills, ointments, among other forms. All this, depending on the diagnosis of the patient, can be recommended for muscular contractures, chronic pain, diseases of the nervous and cerebral system, epilepsy, for appetite improvement, the control of nausea and vomiting, as well as a curative and palliative therapy towards breast and brain cancers.

Among some of the people, we want to mention is Barry Kooda, who shares his experience with Cannabis with The Costa Rica News. “My wife has cervical cancer and does not want to undergo conventional therapies since she feels that the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy outweigh the benefits. The day she started using Cannabis Oil for Complete Extraction (FECO), her bleeding stopped and she continues to improve without any other kind of treatment. Although none of us like to use Cannabis for recreational purposes, the health benefits seem promising”, he said.

For her part, Carolina Vargas emphasized that the Minister of Health has been clear that in this respect, people who cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes will not be persecuted. The Director of the IAFA (Institute of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) has also shown herself in favor of a non-prohibitionist regulation that allows the use of the plant for therapeutic purposes. “The Ministry of Health confirmed that it is possible to register medicinal products made with cannabis but no company has made the process to date”.

CBD and THC within the medicinal spectrum

THC, which stands for tetra-hydro-cannabinol, is generally the most famous (or at least the most mentioned) of all these substances. THC is the only psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant and is responsible for making people “euphoric”. That does not mean that it is not beneficial for medicinal users. The strength of THC lies in a wide variety of medical symptoms and impresses in its alleviation of chronic pain, in the increase of appetite and in the reduction of nausea.

CBD, which means Cannabidiol, is the 2nd most prominent cannabinoid in most cannabis strains. CBD is superior to THC in a variety of medical conditions that helps to alleviate and is a great substance for the treatment of pain, anxiety, and inflammation. However, it is more popular for its benefits as a relaxing agent and also killing bacteria.

Difference between CBD and THC

CBD is not psychoactive (feeling of euphoria or an altered state of mind), but rather lowers that euphoria and relaxes the body. It can be said that CBD is the primary choice of medical patients, depending on their disease. It is very important to mention that the species that have high concentrations of psychotropic components: THC and low concentrations of non-psychotropic components: CBD are cataloged as marijuana. On the other hand, it has the opposite conditions: very low THC and high CBD, in plants known as “Industrial Cañamo” or simply Cáñamo. As we mentioned earlier, studies suggest that CBD counteracts the psychotropic effects of THC.

Hemp

Hemp is named by specialists as one of the most versatile plants in nature; it can be used in the production of fabrics, food, fuels, plastics, medicines, among others. It is said that Cannabis has been used by people for more than 10,000 years and was initially used for the treatment of medical conditions and for the alleviation of symptoms. The plant was even used by some of the Chinese emperors long before 2000 BC.

Hemp bushes

More information regarding the prohibition of the cultivation and consumption of Cannabis

In 2015, dozens of people mobilized to the capital of the country (San José) to march against the prohibitions to the cultivation and consumption of cannabis. That same year, the Ministry of Health, made a study to include in the legislative bill presented by a pro-government deputy whose purpose was to authorize the cultivation and medicinal use of marijuana. The state-owned institution Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social (CCSS), as administrator of the network of public clinics and hospitals in the country, pronounced itself with a favorable verdict.

Thus, beginning this year 2018, Costa Rica rejected the Mexican idea of legalizing marijuana in tourist areas. While the former Minister of Public Security of Costa Rica, Gustavo Mata Vega, announced his rejection, he considered that “this type of concession could never be realized because it would only generate serious social problems, as well as more deaths and atrocious crimes”.

What other relevant institutions say regarding this debate

The Costa Rican Association for the Study and Intervention in Drugs (ACEID), along with The Costa Rica News affirm that “a bill to regulate Cannabis for medicinal purposes is not indispensable, besides that we are totally against the bill 19256, since it was not made from a thorough analysis of the general population’s opinion about the matter, for example, to define the amount of cultivation and sale licenses and the amount of production needed.

The country already has a law that allows Cannabis to be regulated for medicinal and scientific purposes (Law 4544). What is needed is a regulation from the Ministry of Health, which is being discussed in the commission that recently created this Ministry and in which ACEID, FUCOCAME, and CENIBIOT, among other organizations, also participated for the goal of greater and broader participation in the regulatory process”.

By our part, TCRN will continue to boost the voice and opinion of people who have some ailment and are already using cannabis to counter it. In fact, we will soon begin a survey for a better understanding of the needs of this segment the population and provide relevant information to be taken into account in the regulation process.

Finally, it must be clarified that THC and CBD are not the only cannabinoids that this plant has. There is also the THCa, CBDa, CBN. CBR, CBG. Many of them are also psychoactive, even CBD, but in a different way according to the proportion in the plant. Also, that psycho-activity is not necessarily a euphoric process; rather, it can be a relaxation state. This depends a lot on the type of cannabis used, the physical and mental state of the person and the context of consumption.

One more thing…

Hemp is understood as the industrial use of cannabis, mainly to obtain fiber, seeds, oil, etc. It may have medicinal uses but not many, since the content of cannabinoids are usually low in general. Like the horticultural use (as the case of Mario Cerdas), the industrial use is excluded from Law 4544, so the State can regulate it by means of an institutional regulation, different to the regulation of the medicinal and scientific use of cannabis. In fact, hemp should be regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) not the Ministry of Health.

The issue of the legalization of marijuana cultivation in Costa Rica goes beyond the legal aspects. Therefore, constant research, analysis, and debate are needed within the Central American country, so that an agreement can be satisfactorily reached between authorities and the population as soon as possible.