The Costa Rican Legislative Assembly voted in favour of the legalisation of marijuana for medicinal and therapeutic purposes despite facing the opposition of President Carlos Alvarado and the Ministry of Health. The vote won 58% support in the chamber but it is yet to be approved after the conservative National Restoration Party sent the text to the Supreme Court for consultations.
Why is the Costa Rican governing party opposed to the legalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes? “The government argues that they do not have the tools to control its production, marketing and consumption,” explained an Independent Deputy, “however, it seems to me that with a little effort and will, obstacles that arise can be overcome.”
“The government argues that they do not have the tools to control its production, marketing and consumption, however, it seems to me that with a little effort and will, obstacles that arise can be overcome.”
Independent Deputy, Chamber of Deputies, Costa Rica
Nine members of parliament of different parties have requested Alvarado to call for an extraordinary parliamentary session to pass the law, claiming that its approval would contribute to the economic reactivation of the country. The Costa Rican Foreign Trade promoter (“PROCOMER”), estimated that there is a USD 5.7 billion global hemp market which has the potential to generate USD 10,000 per hectare cultivated for the country.
The Deputy continued, “The proposal is extremely comprehensive and it will make a significant economic contribution – it will allow productive chains to be established, it will promote the attraction of direct foreign investment and the generation of thousands of jobs, prioritising the agricultural sector and small groups with poor economic options. The project also includes a component of industrial hemp that is a raw material for plastic fibre, textiles, surfboards, construction materials, food supplements, beverages, food -seeds, oils and snacks. According to studies carried out by PROCOMER, up to 25,000 by-products could be extracted from industrial hemp.”
Costa Rican agribusiness producers argue that the legalisation of medicinal marijuana could transform Costa Rica into a development hub for the industry and attract a cluster of international pharmaceutical companies to the region. Despite the Ministry of Health not supporting the proposal, a senior Costa Rican health official conceded, “Marijuana has the potential to help improve the quality of life of people with chronic and immunological diseases such as Parkinson’s, lupus, multiple arteriosclerosis, epilepsy and others with fewer side effects.”
“Marijuana has the potential to help to improve the quality of life of people with chronic and immunological diseases such as Parkinson’s, lupus, multiple arteriosclerosis, epilepsy and others with fewer side effects.”
Senior health official, Costa Rica
It is unlikely that the law will be approved before the end of the year, as legislators await the ruling of the Supreme Court. If the court gives the green light to the measure, the Legislative Assembly needs to hold a second vote with a qualified majority and overcome the power of Alvaro’s veto before its final approval.
A Deputy, who voted in favour of the proposal, outlined the way forward from here, “I am optimistic because the proposal already has a first approval by the Legislative power and we’re awaiting a call for a second vote and with this, it would be approved at the legislative level. Due to the structure of the division of powers and the conformation of the laws in our country, we have mechanisms that allow the Legislative power to take a decision in case the President does not support the law: it can return to the Legislature to make the decision to convert it into the law of the Republic by means of an insistence vote. The project was sent to a constitutionality inquiry to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice by a group of Deputies. That judicial instance must study the consultation and determine the constitutionality or not of the proposal to comply with due process. I am sure that the project will return to the legislative agenda for its second debate so we can contemplate between 1 and 3 months for its final approval as the law of the Republic.”