Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Medical cannabis in Costa Rica is legal, but recreational marijuana use remains prohibited.
Costa Rica’s President, Carlos Alvarado, signed a bill in March 2022 allowing marijuana for therapeutic and medicinal use. This means that Costa Rica follows the lead of several other Latin American countries that have approved medical marijuana.
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As part of the bill, hemp cultivation and industrial production are now legal. The law will regulate and allow access to cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic use. The bill states that access to medical marijuana is part of Costa Ricans’ “fundamental right to health.”
While medical marijuana is legal, it is still illegal to sell and produce marijuana on a large scale. It is also illegal to carry more than a small amount of marijuana. However, Costa Rica’s drug possession law does not specify exactly how much marijuana qualifies as a “small dose.”
Consequently, the law’s ambiguity has been interpreted to mean that personal consumption in small doses is legal in private areas (though technically illegal) as personal consumption does not carry any criminal penalties.
Further, Costa Rican police do not have a specific protocol for dealing with cannabis possession. Usually, if they recover small amounts (between one and eight grams), they will confiscate the drug but not make an arrest. In the case of a larger quantity that indicates dealing or supply, they are likely to opt for a formal arrest.
Medical Marijuana Laws in Costa Rica
Residents who want access to medical cannabis will need a prescription from a doctor and must access marijuana through regulated channels, such as pharmacies.
Organizations that wish to cultivate medical marijuana must register with the appropriate national health bodies and comply with several other regulatory conditions.
As these sweeping changes are relatively new, there is some confusion about how they will be implemented and enforced. These laws in Costa Rica are a work in progress, with many changes still being ironed out.
What to Know About About Medical Cannabis in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, accessing medical cannabis involves visiting a doctor who will provide a prescription for cannabis. This can be dispensed to patients via regular pharmacies.
Tourists cannot access medical marijuana or bring it into the country, and prescriptions from other countries are not honored in Costa Rica.
Telemedicine Isn’t Allowed
Medical marijuana legalization has been implemented relatively recently, and a telemedicine market has not yet developed in Costa Rica.
No Current Employment Protections
Costa Rica has yet to enact employment laws protecting medical cannabis users. The bill passed very recently, and many aspects of its implementation are still being worked out.
Medical Cannabis Product Testing
Those who cultivate medical marijuana in Costa Rica must be registered with several national health institutions and comply with the Costa Rica Drug Institute (ICD) inspections. As for specific testing requirements, these do not yet appear to have been established, but the general industry is likely to be highly regulated.
There are Few Safe Places to Buy Cannabis
Marijuana cannot be legally purchased for recreational purposes. Those with a prescription can access marijuana via pharmacies, but any other access to marijuana falls outside of the law.
Though marijuana is illegal in Costa Rica, anecdotal reports indicate a fairly casual approach to cannabis and that it can be found outside medical channels. In addition, it is not technically illegal for people to possess small amounts of marijuana (even if they do not have a prescription), indicating a general tolerance toward accessing marijuana.
Public Cannabis Use Is Prohibited
In Costa Rica, the consumption of marijuana is safely done within your home if you possess a prescription, and public consumption is illegal. That said, it’s unlikely that possessing a small amount of marijuana without a prescription will result in punishment.
Can You Grow Cannabis In Costa Rica?
Growing for self-consumption is illegal. Companies who wish to cultivate medical marijuana must be registered and consent to a range of conditions and inspections.
Some medical marijuana patients have interpreted the law as favoring growing for personal use, but this appears technically illegal. However, it is unlikely perpetrators would face severe penalties would be imposed if they have a cannabis prescription and are growing small amounts.
The Bottom Line
Medical cannabis is legal in Costa Rica, and the government considers it a fundamental right. However, there are few places to get medical cannabis legally.
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