Medical Marijuana in Costa Rica

Updated on January 30, 2019.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

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.      

Medical Marijuana Program in Costa Rica

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:

  • The planting, cultivation, production and sale of cannabis
  • Licensing and authorization for research facilities, clinics, farms and other locations where cannabis would be produced or stored
  • The process for patients to receive medical marijuana cards
  • Any other facets of Costa Rica’s cannabis industry

History of Medical Marijuana in Costa Rica

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.

Possession and Cultivation of Medical Marijuana in Puerto Rico

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.

Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana in Costa Rica

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:

Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Costa Rica

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:

  1. The patient will need written certification from a physician stating they would benefit from cannabis.
  2. They will need to fill out an application and pay a requisite fee.
  3. Identification cards will be issued and monitored by the IICBA.

In the case of minor patients and those who need a caretaker, additional forms and criteria must be met.

Medical Marijuana Penalties in Costa Rica

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.

Learn More With

As the medical marijuana bill makes its way through the Costa Rican Congress, be sure to get the latest updates from — 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.

Resources for Medical Marijuana Patients in Costa Rica