Law in Costa Rica awaits decision by president; will he sign?

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Costa Rica’s president said he is studying a bill that would legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp, giving no clear indication if he will sign the measure into law or not.

President Carlos Alvarado said he is reviewing the measure with health authorities after it passed the Legislative Assembly earlier this month, with 29 of 57 deputies voting in favor.

Economic potential

Lawmakers have urged the president to sign the law, which supporters say can bring economic and social development to Costa Rica’s rural areas by authorizing the production, industrialization and commercialization of hemp for industrial applications and food.

The law covers cultivation, harvesting, processing, storage and transport.

Rosa Volio Pacheco, a deputy who co-sponsored the bill, said the proposed law could spark development in the pharmaceutical industry and a range of different value chains starting in agriculture.

Medical marijuana provisions in the bill would also bring hope to patients whose suffering could be relieved by legal, prescription marijuana products, Volio Pacheco said. The law would limit marijuana to medicinal and therapeutic use, and does not legalize adult-use (recreational) marijuana.

President’s term ending

Alvarado is at the end of his term, and is not allowed to run for re-election to a second consecutive term in Costa Rica’s presidential election next month. His administration has focused on decarbonizing Costa Rica’s economy, having set a goal for the country to achieve zero net CO2 emissions by 2050.

Before its passage out of the legislature, the Costa Rican cannabis bill was approved in the first legislative debate last year, and the Constitutional Court signed off on the measure in November. The bill was published Friday, Jan. 7.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) and the Ministry of Health would jointly oversee the hemp and medical cannabis sectors. 


MAG would control licensing for the import and reproduction of cultivation seeds with the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CRSS), which is responsible for most of the country’s public health sector, or authorized laboratories or other entities. Those licenses would only be available to organizations such as cantonal agricultural centers, associations of small and medium producers, cooperatives and indigenous development associations.

Cultivation and commercial licenses, more broadly available to farmers and other supply chain operators, would be granted for six years, and be renewable.

PROCOMER, the Costa Rican foreign trade promotions agency, said the proposed law would give domestic farmers and producers access to global cannabis markets for the export of goods and services.

Trade groups work together

Anticipating President Alvarado will sign the bill into law, the Hemp and Cannabis Council of Costa Rica, a trade association, announced this week it signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S.-based National Industrial Hemp Council of America.

The organizations said they will cooperate on improving the quality of hemp research, marketing, networking, and consumer protection services while promoting hemp as a brand in the global marketplace.

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