Costa Rica eyes up medical cannabis legalization options

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Restrictions on medical cannabis in Costa Rica could soon be lifted, if a bill promoted by the independent deputy Zoila Rosa Volio is approved. The proposed legislation strives for the establishment of Costa Rica’s hemp and medical cannabis industry. 

Volio is a trained agronomist who believes that hemp and cannabis farming could have a substantially positive effect on the Central American country’s economy. The legislator says that farmers will be high in international demand and therefore can sell for a healthy income. 

On an annual basis, the state export promotion body predicts that the market can churn out $5.7 billion; a figure that Volio predicts will continue to inflate several times over due to a surge of demand from global pharmaceutical industries.

“It is a market of billions of dollars and Costa Rica could be part of it,” Volio told AFP reporters.

Bill to legalize medical cannabis in Costa Rica receives opposition

Although Costa Rica’s medical cannabis bill was applauded by many advocates, members of the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly’s evangelical bench opposed the legislation. That particular bench of the assembly has 14 of 57 deputies present. 

Despite opposition including resistance from the government of President Carlos Alvarado most of the unicameral Congress supports Costa Rica’s medical cannabis bill. Now that it has been approved by the Environment Commission, the proposed law awaits a vote in the plenary. 

A recurring complaint that surfaced from Alvarado’s government referred to the disparities between “medical marijuana” and “hemp”. The Minister of Health, Daniel Salas, responded to these arguments by saying in a press conference that “a growing body” of research exists to prove that medical cannabis harbors therapeutic benefits. 

On the other hand, Salas noted how cannabis production can only take place “when the country has all the conditions to guarantee that there will be no vulnerability in security,” in regards to adult use. Volio suggests that crops should be grown in secured and covered greenhouses, inside which oil control and plant traceability measures should be implemented.

Legal medical cannabis in Costa Rica could dissolve black market activity 

Due to the current restrictions on legal cannabis access in Costa Rica, many consumers who require CBD or THC as a treatment for an ailment and/or condition are forced to buy from black market dealers. This is posing a danger to public health the quality of street-bought extracts is widely unknown due to a lack of testing and regulation.

Minister of Health Salas has drawn attention to the dangers of Costa Rica’s black market for cannabis. After making his own calculations, he told reporters that the production cost for a 30 ml bottle of cannabis oil would be around $7 in a legal market much less than the current production cost of $80.  

Not everybody would get their hands on medical cannabis in Costa Rica, however. Based on the details of the medical cannabis bill, the plant would only be available to individuals for medical and pharmaceutical purposes; e.g. Parkinson’s disease and immune problems.