Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Costa Rica may be the first country in Central America to adopt medical marijuana legislation that legalizes it for qualified patients. A bill was presented to their Congress in 2014 that laid out an implementation plan.
Not only would this bill benefit patients struggling with debilitating conditions, but the revenue brought in by the sale and taxes placed on marijuana would be a much-needed source of income for the Costa Rican government. Although it hasn’t passed yet, all signs point to an agreeable outcome.
Health professionals and activist groups who have seen marijuana’s medicinal benefits heavily pushed for this bill to be presented before Congress. It clearly outlines how Costa Rica’s medical marijuana program will work. Overseen by the Ministry of the Health, a new entity, the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis and Hemp (IICBA) would be created to specifically deal with all cannabis-related matters.
They would oversee the following:
Costa Rica is somewhat lax on the possession and consumption of cannabis. Although the laws of Costa Rica ban production, commerce and trafficking, they aren’t as strict on personal possession or even home cultivation. In 2010, the country began rejecting police reports if the marijuana was intended for personal use.
Unless the cannabis is intended for sale and distribution, officials will not prosecute the user. The worst that could happen to an individual caught with illegal marijuana intended for personal use is the confiscation and destruction of all products in their possession.
As attitudes around the world began changing toward the benefits of cannabis, Costa Rica decided to act. A bill was introduced in Congress in 2014 — although its progression has been stalled, it’s steadily moving forward, and many hope it will pass soon.
Because the bill creating the medical marijuana program has not been initiated yet, cannabis is only available from black market distributors. The recreational use of marijuana is only nominally illegal, which means people using it won’t be prosecuted.
Once the medical marijuana bill passes, the IICBA will grant licenses to growers and producers, who will provide high-grade medical cannabis. Until then, cannabis supplies rely on personal cultivation. If an individual has a small batch of marijuana plants intended for personal use, they won’t be prosecuted — however, their plants may be confiscated and destroyed. If that individual is found to be distributing or selling cannabis, they could be subject to prosecution.
The medical marijuana bill before the Costa Rican Congress recognizes many medical conditions that would qualify a patient for their future program. However, more disorders may be added once the law goes into effect. Currently, the following debilitating conditions and symptoms are included:
The process of getting a medical marijuana card in Costa Rica will be very similar to the steps one would take in other countries or U.S. states:
In the case of minor patients and those who need a caretaker, additional forms and criteria must be met.
The recreational use of cannabis, although illegal, doesn’t have any serious penalties in Costa Rica. However, individuals can only carry a small amount of marijuana. Once the medical marijuana law is enacted, patients will be allowed to legally possess medical marijuana without fear of confiscation by authorities. Using cannabis publicly currently is and will continue to be prohibited.
As the medical marijuana bill makes its way through the Costa Rican Congress, be sure to get the latest updates from MarijuanaDoctors.com — we’ll keep you informed about the latest news and developments.
We also have an array of resources at your disposal to research your cannabis-related queries. Be sure to check out our educational blog for information on a range of interesting medical marijuana topics.