Costa Rica Moves Forward with Medical Cannabis Reform

Costa Rica has finally done it! On Wednesday of this week, the medical marijuana bill that was passed the day before was signed by the country’s President, Carlos Alvarado. The bill has been in limbo since Alvarado vetoed it earlier this year, arguing that limits needed to be placed on individual cultivation and consumption. Lawmakers sent it back to him with the requested changes this week.

Supporters praise the legislation, saying that it will provide a much-needed boost to the country’s agricultural sector, not to mention create jobs.

Alvarado has finally conceded that reform is inevitable in the waning days of his administration. The two candidates who hope to replace him, José Maria Figueres and Rodrigo Chavez, do not seem to share his reservations. Both are publicly in favor of recreational reform. They face off against each other next month in a runoff election. As a result, further progress appears imminent.

Given what is going on in the region, there is no real surprise here. Neighboring countries such as Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Paraguay, and Peru have all moved forward on the same path even if their transition to recreational reform may not happen as quickly or smoothly. Ecuador just moved forward this week. Brazil is now teetering on the edge. 

Only Uruguay however, of all the countries in the region, has implemented full recreational reform — indeed becoming the first country in the world to do so — although Mexico is now close to becoming the second country in the region to follow suit. Given the statements of the men who are now vying for the country’s top political spot, however, it may be that Costa Rica becomes the second (or third) country in Central or South America to fully legalize the plant, as well as its production and consumption.

Why Costa Rica’s Recreational Market Is So Appealing

Before this week, cannabis was essentially decriminalized here. Personal consumption did not carry any criminal penalties. Indeed there has been a long history, tradition, and culture of use (no matter how much this was misunderstood or mischaracterized). This was upheld by a court decision in 2016. Because the old law carried no limits for cultivation or possession, this appears to be why the issue of limits was such a hot political topic for an outgoing president.

The current push towards legalization got underway in 2019. Currently there is only one company in the country which has been granted permission to study the plant and has been growing 12 cultivars at two different locations.

However, it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that Costa Rica’s domestic industry in the offing is going to be a boon to the country — and far from exports. There is a strong medical tourist and expat sector that stands to get an almost immediate boost from the current legislation. The country has for the past several decades been one of the tropical locations for aging American and Canadian Boomers who have relocated, in part because of the far cheaper standard of living, the high quality of existing healthcare, and of course, the weather and jaw-dropping scenery.

Beyond the more or less permanent snowbirds, Costa Rica received, pre-COVID, about 1.7 million tourists a year, mostly from North America. About 80% of tourists come for ecological tourism. Earnings from this sector of the economy amount to over $1.7 billion — or did. It is also the most important source of foreign currency. Until COVID at least, it had also grown, on average, just over 7% a year.

This new announcement will definitely be welcome not only by those who wish to create temptations for tourists, but by tourists as well. The intersection of the two is bound to be lucrative and highly popular.

The post Costa Rica Moves Forward with Medical Cannabis Reform appeared first on High Times.

Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court Approves Cannabis Legalization Bill

Costa Rica is one step closer to legalizing its domestic cannabis industry. On December 1, the country’s constitutional court, known as “Sala IV,” found nothing in the legislation that was originally passed on October 21 that would prevent it from becoming law. The bill was initially approved by the Legislative Assembly with a vote of 33 votes for and 13 against.

This is a big step. Costa Rica’s law project 21.388, entitled the “Law on Cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic use and Hemp for industrial use” was first approved in late October by the legislative assembly. Rather than advancing directly to a second vote at this time, however, a group of 10 deputies sent the pending statute to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court for a legal review, mainly to stall its passage.

Just the day before the bill was initially passed, on October 20, Panama, the country’s neighbour to the south, finally legalized medical cannabis too. It is very likely that this move prompted Costa Rica’s brief sidestep.

What Happens Next in Costa Rica

Legislator Zoila Volio has already asked President Carlos Alvarado to convene the initiative to the Legislative Assembly. The Minister of the Presidency, Geannina Dinarte has already said publicly that the bill would be summoned to an “extraordinary session” for a vote now that the court ruling has been passed down.

Reform has been pending here for two years.

As of August of this year, only one company has been granted the right to study the viability of cannabis.

A Costa Rica Cannabis Tourist Trade in the Offing?

The average tourist who has spent any time in Costa Rica knows that cannabis is essentially decriminalized and easily obtainable. While the production of cannabis products remains illegal, personal possession has been effectively decriminalized. That said, the actual Narcotic Drug law of Costa Rica calls for a prison sentence of eight to 15 years for possession along with cultivation and manufacturing.

This central American country of just under five million people and bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the South, has long been a destination for those who sought a life off the beaten path as well as increasingly American retirees who are drawn both by the weather and the overall quality of life.

The country abolished its army in 1948. As of 1949, all budgeted funds that would have been allocated to the country’s defense were rerouted to providing health care services and education. Costa Rica, as a result, is known for its stable democracy and progressive social policies.

A regulated medical cannabis industry here would not only provide jobs and income for the locals, but it would also turn the country into one of the most interesting medical cannabis vacation countries in the world.

Costa Rica is bounded by both the Caribbean and Pacific. Lush rainforests cover much of the country. It is already the most popular destination in Central America, visited by people who are drawn both by the biodiversity of the environment and those on the hunt for an exotic ecotourism experience.

Add cannabis to the mix, and the results are likely to be very positive.

Indeed, the opportunities for the ecological development of the sector may get a boost from cultivation in this part of the world.

Sustainable Cannabis

The discussion about what constitutes “sustainable” practices in this industry are an ongoing debate. There are many ways to approach this idea—from efficient grow and processing operations to labor relations.

However, when competing in a global medical market, countries must produce cannabis to a much higher, pharmaceutical standard (GMP) than most other agricultural crops are cultivated under. Such crops must be produced indoors. As a result, at least from a real estate perspective, the development of the industry in places like Central and South America might develop in highly destructive ways. See Brazil for starters.

In Costa Rica, with its liberal approach to rainforest preservation, however, this model might be given a chance to thrive, and further in a non-first world environment.

No matter the difficulties of tomorrow as the industry develops, one thing is very clear with the forward motion of Costa Rica’s legalization of cannabis. Another “green domino” has fallen.

The post Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court Approves Cannabis Legalization Bill appeared first on High Times.

Panama Approves Medical Marijuana Law — Is Costa Rica Next?

Swayed by advocates’ slogan of “For a day without pain,” the National Assembly of Panama voted on Aug. 30 to legalize medical marijuana.

The bill now awaits the signature of President Laurentino Cortizo of the center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), which is expected shortly—despite a pressure campaign from the conservative political opposition. 

Tight Control —But Conservatives Not Appeased

Medical marijuana measures have been pending in Panama’s unicameral National Assembly since in 2017. Fundación LUCES Panama, an advocacy organization for epilepsy sufferers, testified before the body in support of the right of patients to access cannabis. 

Also critical was the testimony of Dr. Sandra Carrillo, a professor with the University of Panama medical school and the country’s foremost medical cannabis specialist.

In an interview outside the National Assembly chambers ahead of the vote, Carrillo sad, “This law will improve the quality of life for patients…. Some epilepsy patients are taking two or three medications, and they still don’t work. Medical cannabis provides an alternative that can relieve their pain and suffering, and that of their families… There are many Panamanians suffering from conditions that other medicines have not been able to alleviate.”

This year, National Assembly president Crispiano Adames (PRD) threw his support behind the final version, Law 153. It calls for establishment of a Cannabis Technical Council, with two representatives from patient groups to oversee the program. A national registry of qualified users is to be established, and an initial seven licenses to be granted for importation and domestic production of cannabis-based medicines.

Domestic production is to take place under tight control, with surveillance systems and other security measures. Pharmacies vending cannabis products will also have to apply for a permit and pass a site inspection. There is no provision for home cultivation.

Nonetheless, the law was opposed by Panama’s pharmaceutical industry. While media accounts are stating that Law 153 passed “unanimously” because there were 44 votes in favor and none against, this is not quite accurate. There are 71 seats in the National Assembly, and the discrepancy of 27 votes seems to be due either to abstentions or lawmakers barred from the chamber because they were infected with COVID-19. 

Lawmaker Mayin Correa of the conservative Cambio Democrático (Democratic Change) coalition, who had recently tested positive for the coronavirus, tweeted angrily after approval of Law 153: “They did not allow me to vote virtually, and my vote was ‘NO.’ I do not agree with the growing of cannabis.” 

Warning of “insecurity” and “high criminality,” she has called upon President Cortizo to veto the bill. 

Will Ticos Be Toking?

Activists in Costa Rica are of course looking hopefully to the example next door in Panama. For the past years, advocacy group Costa Rica Alchemy has been pushing for a medical marijuana program for “Ticos,” as Costa Ricans call themselves. 

This year, a bill was introduced in the unicameral Legislative Assembly by independent lawmaker Zoila Rosa Volio, an agronomist by training. She is pushing both medical marijuana and industrial hemp as a solution for Costa Rican farmers who have been hit hard by free-trade policies that undermined prices for traditional crops.

“It is a market of billions of dollars, and Costa Rica could be a part of it,” Volio said in a 2018 interview, as recalled by the English-language Tico Times.

Last month, the bill cleared the Environment Commission, which means it can now go to a floor vote. It is certain to meet stiff opposition from the powerful evangelical bloc in the Legislative Assembly. This bloc only controls 14 of the 57 seats, but the remainder may be swayed either way. President Carlos Alvarado of the center-left Citizen Action Party (PAC) says he supports a hemp industry for the country but isn’t yet convinced on a medical marijuana program.

As the Tico Times reports, Health Minister Daniel Salas recently acknowledged that there is “a growing body” of research demonstrating the benefits of medicinal cannabis. However, he added that he opposes recreational use and that production can only take place “when the country has all the conditions to guarantee that there will be no vulnerability in security.”

A powerful moral voice for medical marijuana in Costa Rica is Rodrigo Martín, a cancer patient in the town of Santa Ana who was given six months to live by oncologists in 2018. He credits cannabis oil treatments with extending his life and is now a partner in California’s CannaMed Life. “I decided to live, I lead a totally normal life and I owe it to God and to cannabis,” he told Tico Times. 

Martín openly acknowledges that he obtains the oil illegally—of necessity. He said that a doctor friend brings in cannabis from abroad and produces the oil for him.

 Having to skirt the law to survive has given Martín an intransigent posture. He emphasized that, contrary to all the security concerns, he would push to make cannabis more freely accessible. “What Doña Zoila Rosa Volio is doing seems phenomenal to me, but I would make it more open, make it more available, so that anyone can buy it without the need for a prescription,” Martín said. 

The post Panama Approves Medical Marijuana Law — Is Costa Rica Next? appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Wednesday, January 27, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

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