Updated on December 28, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Costa Rica’s movement to legalize medical marijuana, via the Law for the Investigation, Regulation and Control of Cannabis and Hemp Plants for Medicinal, Food and Industrial Use, continues to evolve as lawmakers and the Costa Rican government work to develop legislation that meets the needs of patients and their families.
As of 2017, Costa Rica doesn’t permit the use of medical marijuana. Its pending legislation, however, would change this approach and allow the use of medical weed.
While consuming medical marijuana in public places would still be prohibited, you’d be permitted to use medical pot within your home. The law would also allow you to administer your medical marijuana in a variety of ways, including by inhalation, as well as oral or injectable methods.
In comparison to the medical marijuana programs in the U.S. and Canada, Costa Rica’s medical cannabis program would be different. Instead, it would mimic the country’s approach to special prescriptions and remove the necessity of recommendations from physicians.
Doctors would prescribe medical cannabis to you or a loved one, but only if past treatment options have been ineffective. Pharmacies would fulfill these orders, as the law would prohibit dispensaries. You would not be required to register for a medical marijuana card.
Throughout the ongoing debate over Costa Rica’s medical marijuana laws, the government has remained firm that recreational cannabis will remain illegal. Costa Rica’s existing legislation, however, permits the personal use of marijuana in private spaces.
With the passage of the bill to legalize medical weed, the sale and cultivation of both recreational and medicinal cannabis would remain prohibited if done without a concession or license issued by the Ministry of Health. Grants would range from $5000 to $2.5 million and would be limited to 228 applicants.
While Costa Rica’s proposal for legalizing medical marijuana and forming a medical cannabis program is still undergoing revisions, the existing bill offers more freedoms than limitations. Some legislators, however, argue that the program should include medical marijuana cards.
Requiring patients to register with the government was included in the initial draft of the law. The Ministry of Health asked for its removal though, feeling it could be a cause for discrimination.
Without a medical cannabis card, however, Costa Rica does leave patients and their families vulnerable if they’re found in possession of medical weed. Without a form of identification, it’s difficult for law enforcement to confirm whether the marijuana is for recreational or medicinal use.
Costa Rica’s pending laws for medical marijuana would protect both patients and doctors. Unlike other countries, which require physicians to recommend medical cannabis, Costa Rica would allow doctors to prescribe it. They’d also be permitted to discuss its risks and benefits, as well as advise patients on dosage amounts. Patients, meanwhile, could consume medical weed in any manner that fits their preferences and lifestyles.
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