On January 13th of this year, the Costa Rican Congress approved Bill No. 21,388, “Cannabis Law for medicinal and therapeutic use and hemp for food and industrial use” in its second debate. The project, which was the initiative of the independent congresswoman Zoila Volio Pacheco, who had the support of several deputies from different benches, was approved with 29 votes in favor and 10 against.
This law initiative declares free the cultivation, production, industrialization, commercialization of hemp or non-psychoactive cannabis and its products or by-products, for food and industrial purposes. It is necessary to point out that hemp, which has a low THC content, has industrial uses such as the manufacture of textiles, food, seeds, oils, biofuels, medicines, and cosmetics, among others, and therefore its exploitation opens the possibility of a market which could grow by 55.8 billion dollars by 2025 (with an estimate of 10,000 dollars per cultivated hectare). For said industrial activities, special or additional prior authorization will not be necessary, without prejudice to the licenses and permits required at the legal and administrative level.
Similarly, the use and exploitation in the national territory of cannabis for medical and therapeutic purposes is authorized, solely and exclusively, to carry out a series of activities, among which are:
- The cultivation and harvest of seeds for sale as raw material to the Costa Rican Welfare Administration (“CCSS”).
- Its direct industrialization by the producer, for the production and marketing of products for medical or therapeutic use, authorized in accordance with this initiative.
- The production or industrialization, storage, transportation, distribution and marketing of medicines, cosmetics, essential oils and other products for medical use or therapeutic use duly authorized in accordance with this law, from cannabis plants, their by-products and derivatives .
It should be noted that, in accordance with article 124 of our Constitution, for the project to be promulgated as a law of the Republic, it must be signed by the President (Executive Branch) and published as such in the Official Gazette. Nonetheless, on January 27th of 2022, the President of the Republic, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, issued a partial veto on text. Such veto refers to articles 5, 25 and 26 of the text, which are pursuant to the possibility for domestic cultivation of hemp without authorization, and for the domestic cultivation of cannabis for therapeutical and medical usage. Currently, a group of congressmen and congresswomen are working on the requested changes, given that they find it impossible to obtain a qualified majority of votes in Congress (38 votes), to send the text back to the President for its signature (waiving his changes).
The approval of this initiative is transcendental, since it opens the possibility of an industrial market that in recent years has gained considerable strength worldwide, for which it would generate an important source of employment and income for the State (through a 1% tax). Likewise, the medicinal and therapeutic use would provide more drug options for patients suffering from serious illnesses (for example cancer), since it has been shown through studies worldwide that its use helps to combat the effects of these discomforts.
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Gian María Berello
CENTRAL LAW in Costa Rica