It now seems unlikely that Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado will sign the bill to legalize medical cannabis and industrial hemp. He said, however, that he would quickly publish a counter-proposal.
Almost simultaneously, the Catholic Church in Costa Rica urged the government and lawmakers to “reflect” on the bill, warning that an “uncontrolled cultivation of psychoactive cannabis” would cause “serious damage to public health”.
The law, which narrowly passed the Legislature by a 29-28 vote earlier this month, covers the cultivation, harvesting, processing, storage and transportation of medical cannabis and hemp products.
Carlos Alvarado said “there are several substantive issues” regarding the bill passed by the legislature, without elaborating.
After the presidential announcement, deputies from Alvarado’s Citizen Action Party urged the president to forego further consideration and sign the bill as is. Meanwhile, National Liberation Party President Silvia Hernández Sánchez accused the government of throwing “smokescreens” over the bill and the issue of cannabis regulation.
“The information recently released by the executive branch in relation to the cannabis and hemp bill openly sounds like an excuse to veto it or to introduce a new text, and a new bill with exclusions,” said Hernandez.
Verification of protocols
The Costa Rican Union of Chambers and Associations of the Private Business Sector, the Chamber of Industries of Costa Rica and the National Chamber of Agriculture and Agro-Industry also urged the President to sign the bill, highlighting its potential for economic development.
The president said he would take into account key United Nations protocols as part of his review, including the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Vienna Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Substances psychotropic drugs, so many international texts which authorize the medical use of cannabis and the industrial use of hemp.
José Manuel Garita, president of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church, also spoke out against the bill. He said it would endanger public health and safety and contained “inconsistencies” that would need to be resolved. The Church has also suggested that the law as written would make it difficult to control illicit fields. The Costa Rican church is not the only one to oppose medical cannabis: the situation is similar in Belize or Utah.
Proponents of the bill claim that cannabis can bring economic and social development to rural areas of Costa Rica by allowing the production, industrialization and commercialization of hemp for industrial and food applications, not to mention the potential relief that would be brought to patients by medical cannabis.