Marijuana Legalization in Costa Rica Loses a Battle Not the War

    The fight for the legalization of marijuana is far from over in Costa Rica and, on the contrary, it is advancing towards a new battle

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    Last Tuesday, supporters in favor of cannabis received bad news from Congress when it was confirmed that most of the deputies of the Environment Commission recommended that the initiative be archived. The plan would validate the sale, industrialization and consumption of marijuana in Costa Rica, in addition to other details.

    However, the victory of the conservative bloc –made up of the PLN and Nueva República– would be inconsequential if one considers that there is a tendency in plenary to revive the project and allow private companies and the government to enter a market of more than US$120 million a year.

    In principle, this block of deputies, which includes Social Progress, the Broad Front and Progressive Liberal, plus some legislators from Unity and Liberation, could decriminalize the plant on national soil. “We are calculating about 31 votes in favor of the project in plenary, so we can say that we are adjusted, but with the necessary support to approve it (…) At this time, only the PLN and the PUSC do not have a faction line on this issue”, expressed Manuel Morales, official deputy of Social Progress to the Republic. The proposal promoted by Morales implies that the same prohibition rules that are in force for tobacco in public places are applied, while self-cultivation would not be allowed.

    No longer promoted abroad

    On the other hand, Costa Rica will no longer be promoted abroad as a vacation destination for smoking cannabis. Finally, the bill removes the label for recreational cannabis and is now called “for adult use”.

    For the government, eliminating the prohibition on the commercialization and industrialization of cannabis is essential to deal a strong blow to the drug gangs. Likewise, the money that is collected through taxes will be used to treat addiction cases and fight harder drugs such as cocaine and crack.

    “We have argued that with this plan it would be possible to regulate the market; that is to say, now the narco-groups dominate the sale of marijuana, they are penetrating the neighborhoods and contaminating our young people, therefore, if we legalize, we have control and automatically the gangs that sell this drug would be out of the market”, he said Pilar Cisneros, head of Social Progress. For the deputy, the support that this project receives will depend on a direct negotiation with the deputies and not with the factions, since in the PLN and the PUSC there is no fixed line, so there is room to present “arguments” and eliminate “myths”.

    “The faction does not yet have a position on recreational cannabis. We are waiting to see what will come out of the commission to decide if we take a faction position or, rather, leave it free. For now, we are focused on the gray list and the label. When the time comes, we will see what will happen with that project. The government has the right to support the projects it considers important, whether they are viable or not”, said Alejandro Pacheco, head of the Unit’s faction.

    Meanwhile, Óscar Izquierdo, head of the PLN, indicated that no one in the Environment commission could conclusively show him that this initiative will be positive for the country and that is why he is against it. However, he clarified that the party has not decided yet. “There is no established faction line. I have listened to the positions of the OIJ and I have convinced myself that there is no gain and, on the contrary, it generates more affectations”, concluded Izquierdo.

    The proposal

    These are the most important elements of the bill:

    • The law seeks to regulate the psychoactive cannabis market for adult use.

    • Responsible adult consumption will be promoted through education campaigns.

    • The planting, production, processing, storage, refining, distribution, marketing, supply, manufacturing, transportation, transformation, extraction, preparation, and sale of psychoactive cannabis and its derivatives for adult use will be regulated.

    • It is prohibited to smoke marijuana in the same public spaces that applies to tobacco.

    • Any form of advertising, promotion and sponsorship of psychoactive cannabis products is prohibited.

    • Persons of legal age are authorized to possess and transport up to 40 grams of the cannabis sativa plant.

    • Those interested in the cannabis business will have to acquire a license.

    • Cannabis clubs are authorized.

    • The amounts collected for taxes will go to the IAFA and the police, among other institutions.

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