Costa Rican Legalization of Cannabis and Hemp- Part 1

Costa Rica, well known for its slower pace of life, often affectionately known as “Tico Time”, has actually moved quite quickly in progressing on its path to legalize hemp and cannabis.

On March 2, 2022 the National Assembly of Costa Rica approved a bill legalizing medical cannabis and hemp. Hours later, President Carlos Alvarado signed the bill into law: Law No. 10113, “Law on cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic use and on hemp for food and industrial use” (“Law 10113”). However, given the complexities surrounding the legalization of what was formerly an illicit substance and the creation of an entire new industry, especially in a country that takes the perseveration of its environment, ecosystems, plants, animals and people very seriously, regulations would be needed to flesh out the details of how the new regulatory regime would operate.

Although Law 10113 was signed into law by President Carlos Alvarado on March 2, 2022, just one month later on April 3, 2022, Rodrigo Chaves Robles was announced the winner of the presidential elections, thus becoming the new President of Costa Rica. President Chaves officially took office on May 8, 2022.

By mid-August, President Chaves had announced that the regulation on medical cannabis would soon be published and also announced that the government would be moving forward with the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes as well. On August 24, 2022, President Chaves announced that The Government of the Republic had already sent the regulation of hemp for food and medicinal use for public consultation and estimated that the regulation would be signed by September 9, 2022.

The legalization of cannabis and hemp in Costa Rica can be viewed through three distinct branches which are progressing concurrently, although on different timelines. The first is the legalization and regulation of hemp. The second is the legalization and regulation of medical cannabis. The third is the legalization and regulation of cannabis for recreational purposes.

As noted above, Law 10113 contemplates the first two branches, namely the legalization and regulation of hemp and medical cannabis. Law 10113 itself is not a completely comprehensive regulatory regime and regulations are required both for hemp and medical cannabis.

The regulation of hemp for food and medicinal use has already been released and is expected to officially become law in very short order. Similarly, the regulation for medical cannabis has now also been released, although it is expected that it may be another few months until the medical cannabis regulation officially becomes law. The law (and corresponding regulation) for recreational use cannabis will be the last piece of the legalization triangle, with the government only recently announcing its intention to legalize cannabis for recreational use. However, given the speed at which the government has moved on hemp and medical cannabis, it would not be surprising for the laws around recreational cannabis to move quite quickly as well.

This article is the first in a series that will outline the details of hemp and cannabis legalization within Costa Rica. Subsequent articles will discuss:

  • Law 10113 in more detail;
  • The hemp regulations in detail;
  • The medical cannabis regulations in detail; and
  • Ultimately, the law and regulations pertaining to cannabis for recreational purposes.

Canadian license holders would be well advised to track the progress of Costa Rica’s nascent hemp and cannabis industry as it is already clear that the law will allow for the import and export of hemp and cannabis, thus giving rise to business opportunities for Canadian license holders in Central America. It also means potential competition for Canadian license holders and keeping an eye on what the competition is doing is never a bad idea.

Stay tuned for the next article in the series which will be released in the near future.

This article was originally published in Grow Opportunity.

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