The President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, has opened the door to future legalization of hemp to boost the country’s economy, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic with a recession estimated at 3.6% of GDP.
In his annual address to Congress, Alvarado stated that the measure would allow the production of hemp under controlled conditions.
We are going to promote the cultivation of hemp to reactivate the productive sector, with all the necessary guarantees and security,” said the President in his speech.
A bill already exists
A bill to legalize hemp has already been presented by deputy Zoila Volio in 2019 in the Assembly. The bill focuses on regulating the production of hemp and cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes, and would not allow the recreational use of cannabis. The Costa Rican President did not specify whether he intended to rely on this draft or not and indicated that he would provide more details soon.
“Project 21,388 aims to contribute to the quality of life of patients with certain conditions, create jobs, contribute to the public treasury, diversify agriculture and strengthen our technological talents,” Volio said .
The purpose of this bill is to “regulate the possibilities of planting, growing, harvesting, producing, processing, storing, distributing, industrializing, marketing and exporting the plants of Cannabis Sativa L and their varieties and the plant of hemp or industrial hemp”.
The project also focuses on promoting the export of the crop or products derived from it, such as oils, fabrics, food, building materials, and ropes. Licenses would be granted for the sale of cannabis-based medicines, as well as to regulate the use of seeds and the planting of hemp.
However, the bill has been criticized for reducing the possibilities for self-cultivation of cannabis, now decriminalized for personal use, and for setting high licensing costs that would mechanically reduce market access for larger companies.
Currently, the cultivation and possession of cannabis for own consumption is decriminalized in Costa Rica. An attempt to legalize hemp and medical cannabis had already been made in 2016, aborted by pro-prohibition MPs. Patients can import cannabis treatments from abroad, in the form of oil, as long as THC levels remain below 0.3%.