The president of Costa Rica is calling on lawmakers to legalize recreational marijuana, sending a reform bill to the Legislative Assembly about seven months after the country enacted medical cannabis legalization.
President Rodrigo Chaves Robles said at a briefing on Wednesday that the legislation “aims to legalize, control and regulate the consumption, cultivation, production and marketing of cannabis for recreational purposes,” according to a translation.
Chaves, who took office earlier this year, campaigned on a pledge to legalize recreational marijuana in Costa Rica. He argued that enacting the reform would undermine the illicit market while boosting the country’s economy.
It’s not clear how quickly the unicameral Assembly might act on the president’s proposal, but lawmakers have already familiarized themselves with cannabis policy as part of their efforts to legalize medical marijuana this year under the prior administration of President Carlos Alvarado.
The text of the current president’s legalization proposal isn’t immediately available, but Chaves said that cannabis sales would be taxed, with at least some revenue going to the Ministry of Health.
“What has been the consequence of the state being outside of this regulatory activity?” he said, according to The Associated Press. “That criminal groups, gangs, drug traffickers, those who do retail, have taken advantage.”
The president said that he’s asked lawmakers to carry out a technical analysis of the legislation and also look at the experiences of other jurisdictions around the world that have legalized marijuana.
Chaves also said that while he doesn’t personally support the recreational use of cannabis, regulating the plant is a superior policy to criminalization that would have the added benefit of generating new jobs and businesses in the country.
The proposal is already facing resistance from some lawmakers.
Fabricio Alvarado, for example, said he and other will oppose legalization “with all our strength.”
“I have seen many lives and families destroyed by this drug, which is the door to other more dangerous practices,” he said, according to a translation.
Nos opondremos con toda nuestra fuerza al proyecto del presidente Chaves que busca legalizar la marihuana para uso recreativo.
He visto muchas vidas y familias destruidas por esa droga que es la puerta a otras prácticas más peligrosas. pic.twitter.com/ZkFdgNuczO
— Fabricio Alvarado (@FabriAlvarado7) October 6, 2022
Meanwhile, efforts to end prohibition and regulate cannabis have picked up in several Latin American countries, including Colombia where the recently inaugurated president has called for international collaboration to end the drug war and where a legislative committee approved a cannabis legalization bill on Tuesday.
President Gustavo Petro has similarly talked about the prospects of legalizing marijuana in Colombia as one means of reducing the influence of the illicit market. And he signaled that the policy change should be followed by releasing people who are currently in prison over cannabis.
In Mexico, meanwhile, advocates are holding out hope that the Congress will finally enact legislation to tax and regulate adult-use marijuana in the upcoming session after prior attempts have stalled. The country’s Supreme Court invalidated prohibition in 2018, and a key senator said in August that cannabis reform will be among their legislative priorities for 2023.