Nine bills aimed at legalizing marijuana, written by citizens, have been waiting in line, some for as long three years, at Costa Rica's unicameral Asamblea Legislativa (AL) for legislators to look into and promote them. So far, the 57 AL deputies have ignored the initiatives.
In this Central American nation whose population is just over 4.3 million, smoking marijuana, despite being illegal, is not punished, unlike producing, selling, or trafficking the drug. National authorities are waging a relentless, all-out war--within the general anti-drug effort--on the latter three, a combat that consists of arresting local growers and pushers as well as catching international traffickers.
On Aug. 27, the influential Costa Rican morning daily La Nacion reported on the bills, which have landed at the Asamblea's Oficina de Iniciativa Popular.
"The bills' proposals range from allowing marijuana production for medicinal use only to a full opening," said the national newspaper. "One bill, for example, only seeks home production. Seven others justify the plant's legalization with the argument that it helps treat illnesses. Other texts add economic and social arguments, such as tax payment, producing funds for treating addicts, and fighting against the illegal-drugs trade."
The paper also reported that, in the 2010 National Poll on Drug Use carried out by the Instituto sobre Alcoholismo y Famracodependencia (IAFA), some 7% of the country's population has tried marijuana at least once, and another 2%--mostly men aged 20 to 35 and women aged 12 to 20--uses it on a regular basis.
The trend to use marijuana is on the upswing, unlike the age of those experiencing the drug for the first time, which dropped from 19.1 to 16.7 years in the 1990-2010 period, according to the IAFA poll quoted by La Nacion. "IAFA attributes the trend to an increasing abundance of the drug, the discourse on its benefits, and 'the boom of cultural youth groups where cannabis (marijuana) is a part of the life style.' It is the largest-selling illegal drug most used in the country."
Institute researcher Ernesto Cortes told La Nacion, "We could say for sure there are persons who abuse or use it daily. There's a close relation between marijuana and youth. An example of this is that people have the first contact with this narcotic at 16.5 years of age. Using this type of drug at an early age is quite risky, because it can cause addiction. Besides, youngsters' conduct may change if certain...