Wednesday 31 May 2023

Legalization of medical cannabis one step away from being approved in Costa Rica

Legislators processed half of the motions that weighed on the medical cannabis initiative, despite strong opposition from several legislators, among them that the initiative on medicinal cannabis would be a gateway for the massive consumption of marijuana in the country

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QCOSTARICA – The initiative for the legalization of medicinal and therapeutic cannabis, as well as for the industrial production of hemp in Costa Rica, was ready this Thursday for a vote in the plenary session of the Legislative Assembly.

The legalization of cannabis is being debated in Costa Rica for medicinal and therapeutic uses

The last step before the discussion on the merits was the processing of several reiteration motions, in which independent legislator Shirley Díaz spoke mainly, who considers the initiative as a gateway for the approval of recreational cannabis, better known as marijuana.

However, due to delaying tactics, not all the motions were processed.

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The initiative focuses on authorizing the production of cannabis for medicinal or therapeutic purposes, the consumption of it and its derivatives, as well as its commercialization. It does the same with hemp, which is another variety of the same plant with very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, but with multiple industrial uses.

The initiative has been on the legislative agenda since May 2019 and was affirmatively ruled by the Environment Committee in November 2020.

The main objective of the initiative is to promote economic and social development, as well as the “adequate distribution of wealth in rural areas by encouraging the production, industrialization and commercialization” of both products.

The regulation of the hemp market will be in the hands of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), while the Ministry of Health will be in charge of medicinal cannabis. The responsibilities of these ministries refer to the control and regulation of production, industrialization and marketing activities.

For the production of both plants and their derivatives, producers will have to register and provide information to the authorities about their activities. Health, Agriculture and the Costa Rican Institute on Drugs (ICD) will have periodic inspection and control powers.

In addition, the plan authorizes the sale of raw material for medicinal and therapeutic cannabis to the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), as well as to authorized laboratories, for the development of drugs that require it.

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The extensive discussion received by other bills, placed on the list before the cannabis plan, prevented the processing of the initiative from being completed. Independent legislator, Zoila Volio, proponent of the project, expressed particular annoyance with the positions of Shirley Díaz and Walter Muñoz, of the Partido Integración Nacional (PIN).

In response to the position of Díaz, who considers this initiative on medicinal cannabis to be a gateway for the massive consumption of marijuana, Volio emphasized that it is in no way a legalization of cannabis for recreational use.

For that there is another initiative, still very crude in its legislative process, by the official Enrique Sánchez Carballo, Voliio stated.

The latest substantive modifications that the medical cannabis initiative had received were made in the Environment Committee, where authorization was approved for production companies to settle in free zones (zonas franca), which implies tax benefits for these firms.

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Cannabis is a plant species of the cannabaceous family, capable of producing cannabinoids. Non-psychoactive cannabis is known as hemp because of its low content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and it does not have psychoactive properties, but it does have multiple possibilities for industrial use, while the psychoactive one has high levels of THC: marijuana.

The bill will allow legal entities, but also physical persons, to have access to licenses for the cultivation and production of medicinal cannabis or its derivatives; the congressmen made sure that 30% of the licenses are for medium and small producers, in order to open this market to entrepreneurs, as well as national and foreign investors.

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