Costa Rica continues its legalization process
Costa Rican lawmakers are ready to restart debate on a bill (Expediente N. ° 21.388) aimed at legalizing hemp and medical cannabis. The bill was approved by the Legislative Assembly's Environment Committee last November, but its presentation to the plenary assembly of the assembly was delayed.
The author of the bill is independent lawmaker Zoila Rosa Volio, agronomist and lawyer, who has raised economic and health arguments in favor of legalization. In addition to ensuring Costa Ricans' access to cannabis-based treatments, the development of a cannabis industry is seen as a potential engine for growth and increased public revenue. Last year, President Alvarado publicly supported the development of the hemp industry, but omitted medical cannabis from his presidential message.
According to the proposed law, hemp is defined as cannabis with a THC content of less than 1%. The bill distinguishes between therapeutic products and medical products. This distinction is interesting because the terms therapeutic cannabis and medicinal cannabis are sometimes used interchangeably. However, according to the definition of the bill, therapeutic use is that for which medical supervision or authorization is not necessary, while medical use requires medical supervision. Despite this distinction, the terms are used in tandem throughout the bill, except in section 13.2, which provides for licensed artisanal production of products for therapeutic use only.
The bill does not establish any licensing requirements for growing hemp beyond what is required for general agricultural activity. As with medical cannabis, growers must obtain a license from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. For their part, those looking to produce finished products will need to obtain a license from the Ministry of Health. Licensing to foreign parties is not addressed in the bill. Given the discussions surrounding the proposed law, as well as the general openness of Costa Rica's economy, this omission likely indicates an intention to allow foreign participation in the nascent cannabis industry.
According to the provisions of the bill, the patient qualification for medical cannabis is to be determined by the person's physicians. Patients will be allowed to grow their own cannabis.
The new law will establish a 1% tax on medical cannabis (but not hemp) transactions. If the bill is passed, the executive branch will have six months to issue regulations.
Overall, the bill appears to strike a good balance between the government's desire to achieve budgetary gains through the legalization of cannabis and giving the industry the opportunity to develop as it sees fit. The reduction in regulatory burdens on hemp is applauded and a reasonable adjustment.
Given that Costa Rica has been successful in attracting investment from foreign companies, especially manufacturers of electronics and medical devices, there is reason to be optimistic about the prospects for its cannabis industry - assuming may the Legislative Assembly vote on its existence!