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Costa Rica as a Destination for Recreational use of Cannabis

Costa Rica is attempting to approve the legalization of the production (farming), commercialization and consumption of cannabis. The government has put a bill in congress which did not pass. But it is noticeable how the

Costa Rica is attempting to approve the legalization of the production (farming), commercialization and consumption of cannabis. The government has put a bill in congress which did not pass. But it is noticeable how the government is pushing for the change of regulations for several years. The proposal inclues the responsibility for the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) would have to promote our country as a destination to smoke and consume products derived from the cannabis plant.

The project states that the ICT “will establish information campaigns at the international level to promote Costa Rica as a tourist destination for responsible consumption.”

The business community agrees, that passing this law will result in more tourists, a new source of income for the government, greater foreign investment and the generation of new jobs. These are some of the benefits that would emerge from this law.

Roy Thompson, president of the Costa Rican Hemp and Cannabis Council stated in an interview with news paper La Republica that “In the United States, recreational cannabis is allowed in several states, as well as in Canada, in the same way in Europe several countries have made this decision. On the other hand, in practically all the countries of the world marijuana is present, albeit illegally, not now, but for centuries. Recreational cannabis market amounts to about $15 billion or $20 billion a year.”

Producers will have to prove the legal origin of the material they use in production and sale.

President Chaves, stated that “with the approval of this project, it is intended to regulate the activities and it will be possible to control the payment of taxes, in turn generating greater employment opportunities with new businesses for Costa Ricans. On the other hand, consumers will be able to acquire marijuana safely, without exposing themselves to violence or drug trafficking.”

Opposition to the Proposal

Bary Roberts, president of Tourism for Costa Rica, in an interview with la Republica stated that “It is true that in general, the destinations that originate tourism for Costa Rica, which are mainly the United States, Canada and Europe, are quite open on this issue, but it is more pronounced in the age groups of young people aged 45 and under, not so in those older than this age. This data is important because the number of tourists who visit us is older or senior citizens; For this reason, the necessary investigations should be carried out to determine the impact that this decision may have on our market.”

Likewise, he considers that a possible increase in tourist visitation should be supported by this research, since older tourists who currently arrive in the country spend many dollars during their stay.

While thre is strong support from some sectors of the population and the business community, others prefer to focus in the traditional market that uses Costa Rica as a tourist destination.

For Ronald Álvarez, president of the Costa Rican Association of Travel Agencies (ACAV), it is necessary to wait for the project to be presented so that it can be consulted and subsequently discussed in the Legislative Assembly, however, he points out that the impact in terms of visitation does not It will be so important, because Costa Rica is recognized as a green country.

Similarly, the idea can put Costa Rica on the map as an accessible country that does not impose limitations, in addition to generating new business opportunities and jobs, according to Álvarez.

Generating a positive impact on security is another possibility, since it could put an end to the issue of illegality, says Tadeo Morales, vice president of the Arenal Chamber of Tourism and Commerce.

“We are seeing that the issue of illegality is a big problem, because there are tourists who come and have a habit of consuming, visit neighborhoods that are not so safe or make transactions that can put them at risk, if this was controlled we would avoid ourselves these risks,” Morales said.

In relation to a significant increase in tourists, they do not see the attraction of these visitors as positive for the country, since the Chamber is not what they want to promote.

Other institutions consulted assure that they are analyzing the issue and could adhere to what the Union of Business Chambers (UCCAEP) has, which has even already issued a criterion through its president.

“We believe that well-regulated recreational cannabis would translate into positive effects for the tourism industry and for health, in addition to undermining criminal structures,” said José Álvaro Jenkins, president of Uccaep.

At the moment, a part of the tourism sector is waiting for the proposal to know its scope, since it considers that it would not have such a significant impact on the number of visitors arriving in the country.

At the moment the bill has not been approved by the CR Congress. We will certainly see more attempts to introduce legislation by the current government.



Attorney and Entrepreneur with more than 15 years experience in: immigration law in the US and Latin American countries including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama. In addition, Rafael has extensive experience in Business Law, Estate Planning, and Real Estate. Lastly, Rafael has developed experience in people management, talent development and business development.

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