Friday 3 February 2023

Carlos Alvarado partially vetoes medical cannabis law

Despite the allegations against the initiative, the president stated on Wednesday that he wants the project to become a Law.

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QCOSTARICA – Costa Rica’s president, Carlos Alvarado, partially vetoed this Thursday the legalization bill for medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp. The president said that he made the decision for reasons of opportunity and convenience, in accordance with the power granted to him by the Political Constitution.

Carlos Alvarado partially vetoes medical cannabis law

The Executive Branch objected that the bill approved by legislators allows self-cultivation and self-consumption of the plant, as would be allowed by articles 5, 25, and 26 of the initiative.

Article 5 proposes the free cultivation, production, industrialization, commercialization of non-psychoactive hemp or cannabis and its products or by-products for food and industrial purposes.

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Numeral 25, for its part, refers to the accreditation of the condition of a patient, who is authorized to consume psychoactive cannabis for medical or therapeutic use. Meanwhile, 26 allows the cultivation of a limited number of psychoactive cannabis plants for the self-consumption of these patients.

The President’s counterproposal

In the 56-page veto sent to the Assembly, the president alleges, first, that the approved project must be harmonized with the international instruments on psychotropic substances, limiting cultivation for medical purposes and preventing it for illicit use.

Alvarado argues that article 5 of the bill leaves the cultivation of hemp free and that this poses a serious problem of control and supervision of the activity, in addition to the fact that “it represents a gate for a lawful action to be used by organized crime groups. to cover up the illegal cultivation of cannabis.

Third, the presidential veto affirms that self-cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use is technically inadmissible and that it constitutes a high risk to public health, because “it is wrongly assumed that the plant, by itself, has therapeutic and medicinal effects.”

“The foregoing lacks technical sense, since doctors prescribe duly registered drugs and, making the analogy, it is not feasible to assume that a raw plant will have the same effects as a drug,” says the proposal.

In summary, the Executive proposes to completely eliminate articles 25 and 26, and reform article 5, so that only the cultivation, production and commercialization of hemp is allowed under the license system, for food and industrial purposes.

‘I believe in dialogue’

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“The experience during our own administration has shown that when there is political will, these solutions are feasible and expeditious, as happened with the informed voting law.

“Because I believe in the capacity for dialogue of all the actors, and because we share the fundamental objective of promoting industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis, I am confident that the majority of the Legislative Assembly will accept these observations and this law may be signed and in force very soon, for the benefit of the country,” Alvarado said Thursday.

Despite the allegations against the initiative, the president stated that he wants the initiative to become law during his administration.

The veto bears the signature not only of Alvarado, but also the Minister of the Presidency, Geannina Dinarte; Daniel Salas, Minister of Health; Michael Soto, Minister of Public Security, and Renato Alvarado, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock.

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In addition, the document includes the official letters sent by those ministers regarding the initiative of the independent legislator Zoila Volio.

“There is a particular issue with self-cultivation and self-consumption, which is one of the topics of debate. If the objective is (economic) reactivation, then self-cultivation and self-consumption does not generate reactivation by definition, it is not an economic activity.

“Then the project would have to be based on Health. Some people have argued ‘well, it is that self-cultivation and self-consumption today is not penalized’, and that is true, in effect.

“That’s not the problem; The issue is that if it is going to be placed under the category of Health, there is a responsibility there that it effectively fulfills the other objective, which is to heal people, but what happens if that other objective cannot be protected correctly?”, questioned Alvarado.

According to the president, the articles that he questions have nothing to do with economic reactivation and, rather, would generate “risks for public health and citizen security,” as the Ministers of Health and Security argued.

Alvarado insisted that he supports the proposal, but maintains that this aspect must be corrected. The president added that if what the legislators are really looking for is to legalize the self-consumption of recreational marijuana, they should do so through another bill that is presented in Congress.

The Executive  Branch was also evaluating asking legislators to reduce the percentage of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, a component that generates the psychotropic effect) allowed for legalized products from 1% to 0.3%.

President criticized

Alvarado, once again, waited until he was outside the country to issue the veto, as he has done on other occasions.

Apparently, the veto the announcement of the veto ready since Wednesday, the day before the president headed for Honduras for the inauguration of President Xiomara Castro.

The video released after the veto was received by the Legislative Assembly was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday in hidden mode and erased when questioned and a new video was uploaded to show Thursday’s date.

Many criticize the president for on Wednesday’s press conference he himself ruled out the total veto of the law and said that his intention was that it be approved for the benefit of the citizens, but did not mention anything regarding a partial veto, a decision clearly had made, evidenced by the recording he made personally the day before the announcement.

The president did the same with the reduction in the Marchamo back in October, waiting to the last possible minute and while out of the country, to announce his veto, which would have favored thousands of economically hit by the pandemic and ignored the decision of the legislators.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado (left) in Honduras on Thursday with the King of Spain, Felipe VI, and the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, participating in the inauguration of Xiomara Castro as the new president of Honduras, the first woman to hold that position in that country’s history

“There are no words”

Many legislators, including from his own party, the Partido Accion Cuidadana (PAC) and the party’s presidential candidate, Welmer Ramos.

“I totally disagree with Carlos Alvarado’s veto for the law that allows the use of Medicinal Cannabis and the production of industrial hemp (…) I will be promoting the re-seal of that project so that it becomes a Law of the Republic as soon as possible,” Ramos said on Thursday.

Independent legislator, Paola Vega, said that “the real reasons were business. What they seek is to put onerous licenses on hemp (not medicinal cannabis) and this would make the industry accessible only to a few. What a pity! There are no words”.

Legislators criticize the president’s veto

Vega stated that this initiative was the cherry on the cake at the end of Alvarado’s mandate, but turned into a “lesson of how to betray”.

For his part, Liberacion legislator Roberto Thompson labeled Alvarado as lacking in leadership.

“This is how President Alvarado closes his government. Burying aspirations of a country that deserves to think big, trapped in its inconsistency and lack of leadership. How much courage and determination is needed to move forward at the pace of new times and opportunities”, said Thompson.


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