President Luis Guillermo Solís faced questions on two hot button topics during his weekly press conference at the Casa Presidencial Tuesday afternoon: medical marijuana and the conflict in Gaza.
On Monday, Citizen Action Party lawmaker Marvin Atencio introduced a bill that would legalize medical marijuana and hemp cultivation, production and distribution in Costa Rica. The bill would not legalize recreational cannabis use and would not alter current drug legislation. If the bill were to be passed, it would make Costa Rica one of a handful of countries in the Americas to approve medical marijuana and cannabis-derived drugs.
Perhaps most notably, Solís did not reject the bill outright and said that he was reviewing it. The president had previously said he does not support the full legalization of marijuana in Costa Rica, including for recreational purposes. The president has expressed his desire to see the drug further decriminalized, however, and has expressed frustrations with the war on drugs and its impact on Central America.
Solís added that he had information that was very “critical” of the proposal, so cannabis advocates shouldn’t hold their breath, not to mention its chances of passing the Legislative Assembly.
“I’m only halfway through it,” said Solís. “In something like this the details are very important.”
Solís said his ministers of health and public security, María López and Celso Gamboa, respectively, also are reviewing the 92-page bill.
Group of 30 protest outside Casa Presidencial demanding the Costa Rican government divest from Israel over Gaza war. pic.twitter.com/9f8yyDna99
— Zach Dyer (@zkdyer) August 12, 2014
Meanwhile, the dulled jeers of a group of some 30 protesters could be heard through the walls of the auditorium.
Waving makeshift Palestinian flags and chanting “América Latina, está con Palestina” (Latin America is with Palestine), protesters demanded that Costa Rica divest from Israel and break off diplomatic relations with the Jewish state until the “butchery” ended.
Solís repeated his government’s position to maintain relations with both Israel and Palestine during the conflict that has lasted five weeks.
During a press conference on Aug. 4, Foreign Minister Manuel González repeated Costa Rica’s desire for an immediate ceasefire and urged the United Nations Security Council to take responsibility for ending the violence in the Gaza Strip. At this writing, a 72-hour cease-fire continues to hold.
“We believe that breaking relations at this point would work against negotiations in this conflict,” the president said.
“There is no timidity or ambivalence or confusion on this topic about the role we want to play, even if it’s not exactly in line with what some groups have expressed,” Solís said.
AFP contributed to this report.