In the weeds: Marijuana in Costa Rica

A dope story about pot in Costa Rica.

Happy 4/20! Or, as today’s date is written in Costa Rica, 20/4. In honor of the day, let’s explore cannabis in Costa Rica.

Anyone who has spent more than approximately 60 seconds in Jacó or Tamarindo knows that marijuana is readily obtainable in Costa Rica.

Its legality is slightly ambiguous, though most lawyers (and, importantly, police) agree that personal possession is decriminalized.

Article 58 of the country’s Law on Narcotic Drugs stipulates the following:

A prison sentence of eight to fifteen years shall be imposed on whoever, without legal authorization, distributes, trades, supplies, manufactures, elaborates, refines, transforms, extracts, prepares, cultivates, produces, transports, stores or sells drugs, substances or the products referred to in this Law, or cultivate the plants from which such substances or products are obtained.

Lawyers consulted by the daily La Nación assured that Costa Rica’s drug law “punishes everything related exclusively to drug trafficking, but does not punish personal consumption.”

While nothing in Costa Rican law defines the amount allowed as “personal consumption,” the experts agreed that “the only thing authorities can do if they find crops for personal consumption is confiscate them and, in some cases, destroy them.”

Legalization on the horizon?

Various lawmakers, entrepreneurs and cannabis aficionados have for years pushed for formal marijuana legalization in Costa Rica.

In 2020, a bill promoted by deputy Zoila Rosa Volio sought to legalize the hemp and medicinal cannabis industry in Costa Rica. The lawmaker argued the crop has great economic potential, which is especially important given the country’s current economic crisis.

While the government of President Carlos Alvarado has supported industrial hemp, he and others have argued against the legalization of medical marijuana, citing “security and public health” concerns.

Formal debates about regulating industrial hemp and medical marijuana are expected this year.


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