Is Cannabis Legal in Costa Rica

The law in Costa Rica has legalized two varieties of cannabis to be grown and processed in Costa Rica. Marijuana and hemp are now legalized for medicinal and therapeutic benefits.

Cannabis has been accepted, produced, and legalized in more than 21 countries across the globe due to its medicinal value. Almost 60% of the global market is legal to use cannabis for therapeutic merits.

Citing Costa Rica’s climate, environment, and geographical status, the country is one of the best places to cultivate cannabis compared to other countries, which produces one.

However, cultivation, consumption in big doses, possession, and selling of Cannabis in Costa Rica, even for medicinal purposes, is punishable by Law 8204 Article 58 as it belongs to narcotics and other psychoactive substances.

It was only in 2018 that the Costa Rican Supreme Court decriminalized the possession of cannabis and other drugs for personal consumption only.

Costa Rica’s national police force can issue a fine to anyone based on where they smoke pot. It is illegal to smoke in places where most people gather, like in a restaurant, in a bank, or at a bus stop.

However, in mid-September of this year, a legislative order was released stating that the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) will oversee the agriculture, production, industrialization, and marketing of cannabis.

While MAG will be responsible for the production process, the Ministry of Health is currently supervising the research and academic study of the cannabis plant.

Costa Rica Legalization of Medical Marijuana

A particular Rodrigo Martin was informed two years ago by his oncologist that he had only six months to live due to the metastasized cancer in his head. However, a doctor brought the cannabis raw materials from abroad and created the medicine in Costa Rica, which Martin had consumed for the last two years, being alive in a normal state.

Deputy Zoila Rosa Volio passed a bill to legalize the production, cultivation, harvesting, processing, storage, distribution, industrialization, marketing, and export, mainly for medical consumption of cannabis in Costa Rica, which has been pending for a year in the Costa Rican legislature under Bill number 21,388.

The bill, called “Law on the Production of Cannabis and Hemp for Medicinal Purposes”, proposes that cannabis should be cultivated by small farmers and local agricultural development organizations. The 2019 proposal version states that the license would cost around $300,000 every six years; however, the 2020 proposal version states that the license cost would rely on the operation’s size.

The bill further states that due to the global pandemic and economic adversity brought by it, the production of the cannabis plant will yield a billion-dollar market, supporting an international pharmaceutical demand, like in Germany.

It is estimated that the export promotion of cannabis weed could reach up to USD 5.7 billion a year. The cannabis market hits USD 12 Billion in the year 2019, and an estimated report globally shows that the number will grow to USD 55.8 Billion by the year 2025.

Psychoactive components like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are found in the cannabis Sativa weed/marijuana, which has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, neuroprotective, and anticonvulsant properties.

Hemp, on the other hand, a cannabis variety having low cannabidiol, is widely used in the industrial production of textiles, paper, building materials, and body care products.

There has been an exchange of views on the support for the cannabis bill from President Carlos Alvarado, who states that he supports the hemp legalization but not the medical marijuana bill.

The Minister of Health is in the progress of proving the medicinal benefits of cannabis to approve the production. Volio added that the production should be made in greenhouses to guarantee security measures and traceability of the cannabis plants.

The bill also includes regulations on how to handle violations of the law concerning crimes, administrative penalties, offenses, and confiscations. It further adds a section on incentives for small businesses and producer corporations.

Costa Rica Economic Benefits of Cannabis

Until the first quarter of the year 2021, the cannabis legalization rules and regulations will be implemented following its permits, registrations, licensing, fees, reproduction, and import of the cannabis seeds and plant.

The Ministry of Health, along with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, and the Costa Rican Institute on Drugs will regulate a tracking system from the import of cannabis seeds to the cultivation to the export of cannabis products.

The legislation aims to create a pharmaceutical industry from cannabis products to help in the economic growth of the country. Secondly, the bill intends to provide and protect, not only national but also international consumers, a high-quality cannabis product that encloses the international standard practices. The legislation’s mission is to pump up the industrial and medical sector of the country than the recreational use of cannabis products.

Costa Rica’s agriculture sector is at 6.5% of its GDP, employing a 14% workforce. The export products of the country are coffee, sugar, pineapple, bananas, vegetables, rice, potatoes, corn, palm oil, and ornamental plants. So, if the country exports cannabis products, Costa Rica’s GDP will surely increase in the coming years.

The Costa Rican Government has already agreed on the support of 5% tax collection from all Cannabis by-products to develop the economy in the agriculture sector. Cannabis products are also included in the “Descubre” program of the government to fulfill a diversified agriculture.

The program, which was acknowledged last year, aims to support Costa Rica’s fisheries and agriculture sectors defying sustainable development, food safety, and systematic use of public resources.

Cultivation of Cannabis in Costa Rica

While smoking pot out on a street where there are no public gatherings are decriminalized, cultivation of cannabis in huge quantities can lead you to eight to fifteen years of imprisonment in Costa Rica. You can, however, grow marijuana for personal consumption only.

Although the regulation is not clear on what is the minimum amount of possession one can take to be legal. Possession of large amounts, on the other hand, is considered as trafficking, like selling, transporting, and distributing, that could lead to arrests and prosecutions.

Though the advantages of using cannabis for medicinal purposes sparked a debate in the legislation, almost 53% of Costa Rican supports the bill for medical purposes, which has been passed recently. As a result of the legislation, marijuana is now grown mainly in Talamanca, Limon Province.

Hemp, on the other hand, is already being grown in Canas and Guapiles districts as tests due to the climatic conditions being dry and a tropical forest. The Ministry of Agriculture imported hemp seedlings for research purposes.

Hemp can be harvested in four or five months; hence, by the end of this year, the country will have a clearer picture of how the cannabis variety behaves during cultivation and production down to its by-product’s benefits.

Costa Rica Medical Usage and Certifications of Cannabis

The legalized law on cannabis states that there will be licenses and permits for the development of cannabis by-products like medicines, essential oils, cosmetics, other products for therapeutical use, food, and industrial projects.

The Ministry of Health will supervise the certification program and make sure that the guidelines using the cannabis by-products for patients are taken into account.

There are three kinds of pre-authorization or certifications to acquire before producing cannabis. The first one is a license to cultivate and produce cannabis to be obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.

The second one is a license to manufacture and process the cannabis into medicines, essential oils, cosmetics, and other products for therapeutical use to be secured from the Ministry of Health. And the third one is a permit to research or university teaching events to be obtained from the Ministry of Health.


While the legalization of production, cultivation, and export of the cannabis plant and its by-products is a step ahead in the Costa Rican legislature, it is not yet 100% certain that everyone can carry big doses of cannabis.

In recent months, Costa Rica has recorded some drug-related violence, and the police are reviewing cannabis and other harder drugs as causes of the crimes. Generally, Costa Rica is slowly making a move from the legalization of cannabis and shall see more improvements hereafter.

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