The Dealer, The Pharmacist, and The Official – Costa Rica and Marijuana

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For the last few weeks, Marijuana.com has been on location in Costa Rica. Other than getting some sun, surf, and great coffee, our travels were in an effort to examine the possibility of medical cannabis becoming a reality in this Central American paradise.

We spoke with a street dealer, an illegal but very necessary cannabis pharmacist, and we’ve now had the opportunity to interview a Costa Rican Congressman.

This Government official is also not just any bureaucrat, it’s Dr. Marvin Atencio, the father of the medical marijuana bill that currently sits before the Costa Rican Congress. In a translated interview, Dr. Atencio gave us his thoughts and updated us on the latest information.

Luis Guillermo Solís

Dr. Marvin Atencio, President Luis Guillermo Solís, and Angie Fernandez

Dr. Atencio, when did you first introduce the bill to the Costa Rican Senate?

The first time this project was presented to Congress was on the 11th of August 2014.

When it was presented in 2014, what were the details of the bill for medical marijuana? What was the proposal?

There were four main aspects [of legalization]. One was for investigation [marijuana research], the second was treatment for patients with proven illnesses, the third was the hemp industry, and the fourth was medical tourism.

Why has the bill not yet been adopted into law?

The project had other congressmen in favor of the bill. It is currently sitting in the Judicial Commission, which is a step higher for it to reach the plenary of the Congress. It has about 1,200 motions against it by evangelical congressmen, meaning it has 1,200 questions.

And those 1,200 questions are supposed to be answered before anything happens?

That is correct.

Based on that, do you expect the bill to be adopted this year?

Next Tuesday, the President of the Judicial Committee is planning a special [meeting] with the congressmen who are opposed to this, so we can sit down and have a workshop and try to work with them. If that does not happen, we will need to reschedule for a later time.

We’ve also met with the President to discuss the possibility of making [the bill] a Presidential Decree.

What are the chances that President Solis would do a Presidential Decree? Which I assume is similar to an Executive Order in the United States?

Yes, but I wouldn’t be able to say what the chances are on a Presidential Decree. We are working on two [fronts], the legislative and the presidential. The most ideal would be to pass the law. But in regards to medicinal cannabis [specifically], there is the possibility of having it pass through a decree and that would depend on the President.

Was the catalyst for the medical cannabis bill in Costa Rica because of the growing number of countries, including the United States, who have enacted drug reform policies of their own?

No, the main reason behind the project is that as a doctor specializing in Homeopathy, I’m very aware of the benefits of cannabis Sativa and Indica.

What does the general medical community think of marijuana as medicine? Are doctors open to prescribing cannabis if it becomes available?

There are a lot of doctors, many who specialize in palliative care, who are agreeable with the use of medicinal cannabis. There are over 20,000 studies that prove cannabis in certain instances are advantageous, so doctors are aware.

Do you believe that Costa Rica will be the first country in Central America to adopt medical cannabis?

I surely hope that Costa Rica becomes the first. I’ve spoken with congressmen from Nicaragua and they are very interested in a project like this, so I hope that they will not beat us on this important initiative for Central America.

Are there any final comments you would like to address on this issue?

This is a very important project for Costa Rica, both for public health and economically. It is a way of alleviating the poor quality of life for people who are sick and giving them a better quality of life. Also, we are taking a small bite out of organized crime once we legalize and it will create jobs. It is beneficial for the country.


As the hot sun rises for another day in the happiest country on Earth, Dr. Atencio and his many supporters can think of one more factor that will make Costa Rica even happier. That, of course, is medical cannabis for all who need it.

Pura Vida!

About Author

Jonathan Hiltz has been a journalist, a TV producer and marijuana advocate for over sixteen years. He has a wife, two young children and lives in the Toronto area.

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