Costa Rica has legalized hemp farming and processing under a recently signed law that puts oversight under the Central American nation’s agriculture and health agencies. The new law also sets a framework for marijuana for medicinal and therapeutic applications.
Published in mid-September, the legislation puts agriculture, production, industrialization and commercialization of cannabis under the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, while permits for research and academic study will be supervised by the Ministry of Health.
Licenses will be granted for development of medicines, cosmetics, essential oils and other products for therapeutic use along with food and industrial applications. The law includes a section on crimes, infractions, administrative sanctions and confiscation, as well as a chapter on incentives for producer organizations and small businesses. Domestic production of cannabis for medical and therapeutic purposes is to be regulated through a certification program that takes into account a patient’s condition under Ministry of Health guidelines.
Individuals may grow marijuana in Costa Rica for personal consumption, but its sale is illegal and can be punished under criminal laws.
Rules governing cannabis licensing, permits, registries, fees, and import and reproduction of seeds are to be set within the next six months. A tracing system is to be established among the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the Costa Rican Institute on Drugs.
The government has underscored potential economic benefits of sector development, which will be supported by 5% of tax collections on cannabis products. The industry will also benefit from the inclusion of cannabis in Discubre (Discovery), a program established last year to support the agriculture and fishing sectors in Costa Rica, and which addresses food security, efficient use of public resources, and sustainable development. The program’s goals are modernization of agriculture through coordination among public entities, with a goal of overcoming inequalities that exist in different areas of the country.
Agriculture makes up about 6.5% of Costa Rica’s GDP, and employs 14% of the country’s labor force. Main exports include bananas, pineapples, coffee, sugar, rice, vegetables, ornamental plants, corn, potatoes and palm oil. Costa Rican farmers and multinational corporations operating in the country operate plantations while indigenous communities survive on subsistence farming.
Marijuana is grown primarily in Talamanca, in the southeastern province of Limón. But hemp farming will be challenged, as it is in other tropical countries, by Costa Rica’s hot climate and 12 hours of daylight.