The Permanent Special Environment Commission voted 5-3 this week to reject a proposal from the Executive Branch that aimed to legalize and regulate the production, sale and consumption of recreational marijuana in Costa Rica.
The proposed bill was introduced last October and sparked heated debate between legislators. Those in favor argued it would help control an existing black market, create jobs and tax revenue, and allow prevention campaigns. Opponents raised concerns about risks to minors and impacts on tourism.
Manuel Morales of the ruling Citizen Action Party defended the initiative, saying “The intent isn’t to promote marijuana consumption but to legalize and regulate an already existing reality.” He highlighted economic benefits, estimating the current illegal market exceeds $120 million annually.
Kattya Cambronero of the Liberal Party agreed, stating that “adults have the right to choose what they consume, and the government shouldn’t dictate decisions about their bodies.”
Ariel Robles of the Broad Front Party also voted yes, aiming to “dispel myths surrounding cannabis” and provide safe, legal access, rather than forcing users to “purchase from criminal organizations.” Robles told users to “keep hope” that legalization could come someday.
In contrast, opponents like David Segura of the New Republic Party argued the law, while restricted to adults, would still endanger youth. Gilbert Jiménez of the Liberation Party shared these concerns, also citing potential strain on healthcare and risks of attracting “marijuana tourism.”
After extensive debate, Morales, Cambronero and Robles ultimately voted yes, while Segura, Jiménez, Rosalía Brown, Óscar Izquierdo and Katherine Moreira opposed, resulting in a 5-3 rejection. The commission’s decision will now advance to a final vote by the full Legislative Assembly.
Robles remained optimistic, stating “We are going to talk about marijuana for these four years.” But the current rejection suggests an uphill battle for legalization proponents. This controversial issue is likely to remain a hot topic as lawmakers, stakeholders and Costa Rican society grapple with the economic benefits and societal impacts of potential cannabis legalization.