San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Ricans propose bills to legalize marijuana

The Legislative Assembly’s Popular Initiative Office in the past three years has received nine pieces of legislation from the public calling for the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana, the daily La Nación reported Monday.

The majority of the proposals called for legalization for medicinal use. Another bill argued the weed could be taxed and the revenue could be used to treat addiction.Other bills sought the decriminalization of personal cultivation of marijuana, a serious crime in Costa Rica. While marijuana use is illegal in Costa Rica, the law is not enforced. But laws against marijuana cultivation and distribution are enforced.

Several lawmakers said they have not looked at the proposed bills, and personally are against legalization of marijuana.

A poll from the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Institute (IAFA) said that in 2010, 7 percent of the country – about 301,000 people – had tried marijuana. Two percent – about 86,000 Ticos, mostly men aged 18-35 – smoke pot regularly, the study found.

The head of IAFA, Patricia Orozco, and Costa Rica’s Drug Czar, Mauricio Boraschi, told La Nación they disagreed with legalization legislation, saying marijuana can cause health problems and be a gateway drug.

Legalizing illicit drugs has been a hot topic in Central America this year after Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina brought up the idea. However, the U.S. is against any legalization policy, which has deterred any more detailed discussions about marijuana legalization in the region.

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