Federal elections in Costa Rica take place in February and a new political party in the Central American nation has vowed to legalize adult-use marijuana.

The VAMOS Party, which in English translates to “Let’s Go,” has made the campaign promise to usher in a countrywide legal cannabis sector for Costa Ricans and tourists alike, should they be elected into Congress.

“Currently, personal consumption of cannabis is not penalized, however, [cultivation] and distribution are,” said party leader Margarita Salas in an interview with Marijuana.com. Salas is a Harvard-educated politician who has been following the rapid cannabis reform happening in various parts of the world.

“There is already a [bill] in Congress for medicinal use only, but we want to reform that so it also includes recreational use,” said Salas. She went on to add that the party also wants to modify some of the language in the current medical marijuana bill, which at this point has stalled in the Parliamentary process. “The [bill says] that cannabinoids are chemical compounds and it should establish that they are organic ones.”

Salas wants to broaden the scope of the existing medical cannabis bill to include personal cultivation in the country. At the moment, the bill would allow for specific associations or licensed producers to grow pot, but Salas wants an inclusion for people to cultivate at home for personal consumption as well.

The bill also only allows for patients with a prescription to ingest cannabis, but Salas intends to change that to any adult who wants to partake.

For Salas, a legal marijuana sector in Costa Rica consists of nationwide dispensaries, with both government and private ownership. “I would hope that [retail sales] would be a combination of public and private providers. I very much like the system currently implemented in Uruguay, that allows for state-controlled providers that are regulated. Just like we regulate alcohol and tobacco, for example.”

Although Costa Rica is one of the more progressive countries in Central America, the historically negative stigma surrounding cannabis is what has kept it illegal thus far.

“There’s a lot of moral issues regarding marijuana being legalized and there should not be. There’s ample scientific evidence demonstrating that the substance does not produce any of the side effects that other psychoactive substances do. [Cannabis]  does not harm health and it does not constitute a threat of any kind,” said Salas.

Salas added that criminalizing cannabis is “unnecessary meddling by the state in people’s private lives and choices.”

Regardless of whether Vamos is successful in being voted into Congress in February of 2018, Salas firmly believes that Costa Rica will be the first nation in Central America to legalize. “I am confident that this will be the case,” she concluded.

The Costa Rican federal elections are scheduled for Feb. 4, 2018.

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett

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