Cultivation of Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa in Costa Rica is prohibited by Article 127 of the General Law on Health and further penalized by Article 58 of Law 8204 as it refers to narcotics and other psychoactive substances. Unlike the criminal codes of other various other nations, however, the consumption of illegal drugs in Costa Rica is not considered a crime. Instead, it is treated as a public health matter.
As with many other laws in Costa Rica, the interpretation, implementation, practice, and enforcement of statutes as they relate to personal consumption is uneven. The problem can be found in article 58, which penalizes possession of Cannabis, but it fails to address amounts. To this end, officers from Fuerza Publica (Costa Rica’s national police force) who run into someone smoking pot out on the street are not likely to make an arrest, although they could issue a fine based on where the incident occurred (it is prohibited to smoke anything at a bus stop, in a bank, in a restaurant, and many other places where the public gathers).
Growing marijuana in Costa Rica could result in a prison term between 8 and 15 years. Possession of amounts that could be construed as trafficking (selling, transporting, distributing, etc.) and could result in arrests and prosecutions. In this regard, prosecutors consider the amounts against possible affirmative defenses. If a suspect is in possession of an amount that could be considered personal consumption, charges are not likely to be pursued.
Although personal consumption of marijuana is somewhat decriminalized in Costa Rica, cultivation still falls under the presumption of trafficking. The merits of using marijuana for medicinal purposes are being debated, and three presidential candidates, (Guevara, Villalta and Solis) have voiced their potential support for this measure. Even President Laura Chinchilla voiced her support for further decriminalization in Costa Rica and across the Central American region to alleviate the damaging effects of the bloody War on Drugs, but her statements once sent U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden scrambling to meet with national leaders in Guatemala to dissuade them.
Costa Rica still has ways to go with regard to marijuana legalization. A recent public opinion poll by the University of Costa Rica determined that more than half of the population rejects legalization, although 53 percent support using Cannabis for medical purposes.