Costa Rica is venturing into the cannabis industry by enacting a statute that regulates and authorises the growing, production, and sale of hemp and medical cannabis in the country. A strategic location close to the U.S.A.—the largest cannabis buyer in the American continent—and the established relationship of this country as Costa Rica’s main business partner provides many opportunities for this sector. After three years of discussions between the Costa Rican congress and the government, the country took its first step by passing a bill on January 14th, followed by the president’s enactment on Wednesday, March 2nd.
Now government authorities will be in charge of granting licences to grow and manufacture cannabis products for medical purposes. On the other hand, growing and manufacturing hemp products for industrial and food uses will be unrestricted, i.e. no prior special authorisation will be required by any government body. Although recreational use is still banned in this country, the Costa Rican legislation provides for a regulated cannabis market that stimulates the economy and also includes public health policies for patients who would otherwise be unable to obtain medical cannabis to treat their illnesses. Research and education will be key to ensure that the country will be able to compete against large producers like Canada, Mexico, or Colombia.
There are great expectations of profitability within the medical cannabis sector since the country will attract huge investments from the setting-up of labs (away from U.S. tax jurisdiction) and will also bring in revenue from medical tourism and the sale of medications. “The other great accomplishment under this statute is legalising hemp manufacturing, an activity with the potential to boost our agricultural industry, especially in rural areas,” stressed President Carlos Andrés Alvarado.
Winds of change are coming to Costa Rica: the country is now awaiting the second round of presidential elections on April 3rd with two very different options to choose from. Rodrigo Chaves, economist, former officer at the World Bank, and member of the recently established Social Democratic Progress Party, shows serious concerns about corruption and poverty and has been labelled as a populist because of his intentions to introduce radical reforms by way of a referendum. On the other side stands his contender, politician and former president José María Figueres, who held office from 1994 to 1998 as a member of the traditional National Liberation Party.