The President of the Republic, Carlos Alvarado, partially vetoed file 21,388, which endorses the production, marketing and use of medicinal cannabis in the country and also creates the hemp industry.
In addition to proposing to eliminate the two articles that refer to self-cultivation, the Government modifies the fifth number of the project that authorizes the cultivation of hemp, so that it is not free as proposed in the text but through licenses.
As the Presidential House announced on Monday at a press conference, where the Minister of Health, Daniel Salas, explained the concerns about the inclusion of self-cultivation in the project, the partial veto deals with this aspect in particular.
The bill establishes that self-cultivation is possible when it is shown that it is for patients that said treatment improves their health or relieves their symptoms. “For these purposes, the Caja or the health center in question will issue a card that allows public authorities to identify the patient, in accordance with the technical specifications that the Ministry of Health will issue,” indicates the text approved in the plenary.
Highly risky for public health
Salas pointed out that the project treats the plant as a medicine, without meeting the minimum scientific or medical parameters to classify it as such. “This is highly risky for public health, since it is assumed that the plant itself, regardless of how it is consumed by the person, has therapeutic or medicinal effects, and that is not the case,” said the Minister of Health. Additionally, there are no effective traceability mechanisms, which would result in almost non-existent control, added the hierarch.
This Thursday the Minister of Agriculture (MAG), Renato Alvarado, in a congress on cannabis that takes place in the country, advanced the decision of the Executive Power. “This morning the President vetoed some articles of the law, but we are going with the law,” said the minister.
On Monday Alvarado said at the conference: “From the MAG, we see the industrialization and production of hemp and medical cannabis as a great opportunity for national producers. However, for this production to be successful, it is necessary that the highest health, safety and phytosanitary controls are met. Once the text is corrected, we have no doubt that the production sector will be ready and willing to enter the market and become a benchmark at the regional level.”
At that same conference, Security Minister Michael Soto explained that “self-cultivation and self-consumption would generate a proliferation of crops that would make it difficult to take action against illicit drug trafficking and against organized crime.”
“We are concerned about the control mechanisms since in the next few months I will be 30 years old as a police officer and I have worked for the most part in the area of drug trafficking and I have not been able to differentiate between a hemp plant and a marijuana plant, this implies that people who are given permanent industrial hemp licenses include marijuana plants in their plantations, promoted by organized crime, even could be coerced,” he explained.
What happens now?
With the partial veto, the Environment Commission that ruled on the project has a month to submit a report, where the changes suggested by the Executive Branch may or may not be recommended.
If the deputies wish to maintain the project without any changes, they must “reseal” the law, for which they occupy 38 votes. If they accept the reforms, they must re-approve the project in the first and second debates. In any case, we will have to wait after February 6, because the deputies went into recess this past Thursday for the elections.
Meeting with proponents
The Minister of the Presidency, Geannina Dinarte, together with the heads of Health, Daniel Salas, Agriculture and Livestock, Renato Alvarado, and the director of the Costa Rican Institute on Drugs (ICD), Sergio Rodríguez, met this Thursday afternoon to talk with two of the deputies who proposed the initiative: the independent Zoila Volio and the liberationist Karine Niño.
The Executive Branch outlined its position with respect to the bill on which the partial veto rests and asked them to analyze the proposals they put forward. Volio said that they will pay attention to what the Government has indicated and find a way to make the respective adjustments.