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Ban on growing marijuana for personal use challenged in Costa Rica Supreme Court

Marijuana advocates are watching a new case this week before Costa Rica’s Supreme Court which challenges an anti-drug law that bans growing marijuana.

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, also known as Sala IV, acknowledged that it received a request to rule on the constitutionality of Law 8204, which bans unregulated drug use and production in Costa Rica. Specifically, the constitutional complaint argues that the current law violates “democratic principles,” including freedom, consumer rights and the right to make health decisions, among others, because it does not differentiate between the cultivation of marijuana for personal use and the crime of growing prohibited drugs with intention to sell them.

The case is currently pending before the Sala IV. The person who filed the appeal was not named.

The last year has seen a renewed rumbling for marijuana legalization. Ruling Citizen Action Party lawmaker Marvin Atencio presented a bill in August 2014 to legalize the cultivation, distribution and commercialization of marijuana for medical and industrial use in Costa Rica. But Costa Rican attitudes on marijuana use are mixed.

According to a September survey from pollster CID-Gallup, 51 percent of Ticos surveyed said they favored allowing people to toke up for medical reasons while another 46 percent said they were opposed. The remaining three percent did not answer.

In June, the Health Ministry gave its tentative approval to the Atencio bill’s language, saying it did not oppose medical marijuana as a drug of last resort. A ministry statement said, however, that the health authority would prohibit smoking marijuana as a way to ingest THC, the active ingredient of cannabis.

The Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Institute (IAFA), meanwhile, has maintained its opposition to marijuana for medical and recreation use. Following the announcement of the Sala IV case this week, IAFA president Luis Eduardo Sandí told Monumental radio that he feared a “domino effect” of marijuana legalization as increasingly loose stances on the drug take hold in other countries.

Alberto Morales Bejarano of the National Children’s Hospital previously said the Adolescents’ Clinic was concerned because of the perception that marijuana is “natural and harmless, and because most users refuse to acknowledge the physical damage that occurs in young people, whose brain maturation process has not completed.”

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