Marijuana is Decriminalized in Costa Rica, Sort Of [Updated 2020]
Is weed legal in Costa Rica?
In 2018, the Costa Rican Supreme Court decriminalized possession and cultivation personal quantities of marijuana. Selling marijuana, as well as large-scale possession and/or cultivation remain crimes punishable by imprisonment. Legalized medical marijuana is pending in the Costa Rican legislature.
[Update on October 9, 2020]
Costa Rica’s official trade promotion agency, PROCOMER, published a study which demonstrates the value of hemp production as a potential agricultural export. While this study doesn’t directly address marijuana legalization, it does represent forward momentum in normalizing the cannabis plant.
[Update January 2, 2020]
There is a bill waiting to be heard by the Costa Rican National Assembly that would legalize production of hemp and cannabis for domestic medical use. [source in Spanish]
Additionally, there is an effort to legalize production for export. Proponents cite a 2017 Deloitte Canada report indicating that approximately 350 million people live in jurisdictions where cannabis legal and may be imported.
One lawmaker, Zoila Rosa Volio Pacheco stated that, “[legal marijuana production for export] would generate work for skilled and unskilled labor,” for the country that is suffering from an economic downturn.
[Update on September 2, 2019]
Costa Rica ranks #6 in Latin America for percentage of the population that identify as a frequent marijuana user.
[Update on May 2, 2019]
Guillermo Araya, the director of the Costa Rican Drug institute (known as ICD for its initials in Spanish) reminded those in Costa Rica that, while simple possession is not punishable, other activities are.
Specifically, Article 58, Law 8204 calls for between 8 and 15 years in jail for anyone that distributes, trades, supplies, manufactures, elaborates, refines, transforms, extracts, prepares, cultivates, produces, transports, stores or sells marijuana. Presumably, he means large-scale cultivation and manufacturing, as the Supreme Court ruling essentially decriminalized personal possession and cultivation.
Mario Alberto Cerdas: Costa Rican Cannabis Pioneer
Pot is technically contraband in Costa Rica, however, thanks to a courageous Costa Rican attorney named Mario Alberto Cerdas, possessing and cultivating cannabis in amounts small enough for only personal consumption is no longer a crime.
Cerdas was charged with cultivating marijuana for growing pot plants on the outdoor terrace of his home, which faced the building that houses Costa Rica’s federal law enforcement agency, the OIJ. He was charged, arrested, and spent five months in preventative detention without bail.
His case made it all the way to the third chamber of the Costa Rican Supreme Court. In January of 2016, the Court absolved Cerdas of the charge of marijuana cultivation. Then, after two years of study, the Court issued a resolution that decreed that growing cannabis for a purpose other than selling it or distributing it, is not a threat to public health. Therefore, it is not a punishable crime.
Medical Marijuana in Costa Rica
There are multiple efforts in the National Assembly, Costa Rica’s legislative body, to establish a medical marijuana program.
One effort would limit eligibility to those suffering from serious conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, MS, and HIV. Eligible conditions could be added based on future scientific studies validated by the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis and Hemp (IICBA).
Under this proposed law, medical cannabis would fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. Cannabis would be prescribed by a doctor and distributed via pharmacies.
Costa Rica Alchemy is the country’s first medicinal cannabis association.
Is Pot Legal in Costa Rica for Foreigners?
Recreational marijuana is illegal for residents and visitors. However, there is no punishment for possession of a “small dose,” which is usually defined as about one-quarter of an ounce.
Like many of Central America’s tourist hotspots, pot is abundant. In a 2015 University of Costa Rica study, almost 20% of Costa Ricans reported that hey had tried marijuana. The same study reported that 78.1% say that marijuana is very easy to acquire.
We don’t recommend or endorse buying, selling, using, or possessing marijuana in Costa Rica. You could get arrested and end up in a Tico prison for breaking marijuana laws. Don’t do it.
There are five places that a visitor can most easily score weed, and as such, we recommend avoiding these kinds of places in order to not break the law:
Weed on the Beach
Weed is especially easy to find in the more popular beach areas.
In the Caribbean beach towns like Puerto Viejo and Cahuita, a person can literally follow the smell of pot.
The eastern coast of Costa Rica has an Afro-Caribbean vibe. In fact, Cauhita has been called Costa Rica’s Little Jamaica . Rastafarian influence on the town is obvious.
If you can’t find weed in Puerto Viejo or Cauhita then you are stupid.
Speaking of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita, one of our Costa Rica insiders, Marie Gomez, wrote a guide to these towns, outlining great places to eat, drink and enjoy fun activities.
On the Pacific side, surfers and vendors on the beach can usually give you some advice on where to go to score weed.
Weed in the Park
Not all of Costa Rica is the beach. If you find yourself landlocked, a local park is usually where nefarious pot dealers hang out. We don’t ever recommend going to a park late at night. They can be dangerous in the wee hours.
Most towns and communities are built around a church and an adjacent park. There is usually at least one person in the park that is selling.
Weed in Clubs and Bars
Dance clubs and bars are often frequented by marijuana users and people that sell it.
In beach towns, the Rastafarian-themed bars are often full of marijuana activity.
Weed in a Taxi
In the Central Valley, taxi drivers sometimes can steer you toward places that where there is (not) marijuana.
Always look for the official red taxis with yellow triangles displaying their license number.
Phrases like “ 420 friendly ” on AirBnB indicate that the host is marijuana-friendly.
Should I Bring it With Me
Under no circumstance.
If you are caught, the best case scenario is that you are denied entry to the country and sent home. That is what happened to a professional American football player from the United States.
The worst case scenario is that you spend years in a Costa Rican prison. Have a beer instead.
Chifrijo is a delicious Costa Rican food made with beans, rice, fried pork, and often topped with avocado. Most people eat it with corn chips.
Chifrijo, a popular bar food made of pork belly, beans, rice, salsa and/or chimichurri, is a local go-to to treat the munchies.
Chifrijo Jones is the nom de plume of author, adventurer, and businessman, J. Fisher.
If you’ve been paying close attention to the news in Costa Rica, you might notice stories about unrest, roadblocks, and protests in the streets. In related news, you might also read that the.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions for travelers from the United States. Learn more about who can travel to Costa Rica and what you can do when you are there.
I’m Chifrijo Jones. More than ten years ago I went to Costa Rica for the first time for a Spanish-language immersion. I loved it so much that I just kept going back.
My Costa Rican friends and I like to explore the country, from beaches to volcanoes; and cities to backroads. We go to soccer games and city festivals. And, we write about what we see and do. We take pictures and make videos, too.
I hope that what you find here will help you with travel, tourism, relocation, and retirement to Costa Rica.
Is weed legal in Costa Rica? In 2018, the Costa Rican Supreme Court decriminalized possession and cultivation personal quantities of marijuana. Selling marijuana, as well…
Find Weed Abroad: Cannabis Travel Tips for Costa Rica and Nicaragua
Monday June 10, 2019
I magine country roads dangerously winding through jungle mountains. Envision volcanoes with hot springs surrounded by forests with the most extravagant butterflies. Hear the sound of the waves crashing in off the Pacific Coast, listen to the trickle as the water washes over a sea turtle on its way to lay its eggs. Awake early from the howler monkeys marking their territory, go zip-lining in the afternoon, and watch a sunset over the ocean in the evening.
Central America is a great place to get a little bit of everything good. The scenery, the people, the energy, the activities, and the peace make it a slice of heaven. Something extra for the cannabis traveler: there’s rarely a lack of product. You just need to know where to look, the etiquette of the region, and how to have the best experience while there. So, take a journey with us as we explore some ways to find cannabis in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, two of the most popular Central American travel destinations.
How to Acquire Cannabis in Costa Rica
One of the first places people go in Central America is Costa Rica because they hear it’s safe. And it is. It might even be too safe. But there’s also plenty of drugs in its capital, San Jose. A few areas like Hatillo and San Pedro are known as areas where foreigners can find cannabis. The latter tends to have the better product as it’s in a bit of a shinier area. In terms of the legality of cannabis, Costa Rican law states that marijuana is illegal – but there is some grey area to the law, though. According to the Costa Rican Narcotics Law No. 8204, large-scale production, possession, and sale of cannabis is illegal. However, the law also states that carrying more than a “small dose” of marijuana is illegal as well, leaving many to interpret that “small doses” of cannabis are legal to possess and consume in private. The law does not state what a “small dose” weighs exactly, but most believe it to be somewhere between one and eight grams.
Small doses of cannabis aren’t technically illegal in Costa Rica. If caught with a small dose, a police officer might confiscate your cannabis, your pipe, and then laugh when they take your lighter, too. Be careful though, if you’re caught with more than what’s considered a small dose you could face arrest.
If you want to find cannabis in Costa Rica, listen to cab drivers and people standing around offering ‘weed’ or what they call ‘la cripe.’ There are roughly two types of cannabis to be found in Costa Rica. The good kind, la cripe. And all the rest which is often slightly brown, has seeds in the bags, and will cost you no more than $20 for an eighth. La cripe can be much more expensive; up to $60 for an eighth. Sometimes it’s definitely worth it. Other times, not so much. You can always ask to see it beforehand. A few haggling skills can go a long way in Costa Rica and the ability to speak in Spanish will go even further.
Any chance you’re going to Tamarindo? Walk past the taxis and get your cannabis, consume it, head to the board shop and rent one, and enjoy the waves for us. It’s the perfect place to learn if you’ve never surfed before, but it also has some great waves for more experienced riders, especially at the river’s mouth. Perhaps no better place to score some marijuana is in Limon or Puerto Viejo. It’s a total Caribbean feel there with tons of Rastafarians. The guy who makes your Caribbean Jerk Chicken Wrap probably has a plate of brownies in his fridge. Sometimes all you have to do is ask to see them.
How to Acquire Cannabis in Nicaragua
North of Costa Rica is a country with a variety of personalities. Its culture still suffers from the Banana Wars and even today their government is violent toward its people. Nicaragua is not well-known for its tourism quite yet, but it might be once the bad press settles down. There’s a giant lake filled with bull sharks that has twin volcanoes at its center. There’s a place to go sandboarding, there are vast jungles, and the surf is picture perfect in some places. Nicaragua is a land full of opportunity for tourists, including cannabis consumers.
Sadly, not as much of la cripe makes its way into Nicaragua, perhaps the demand isn’t high enough yet. Most of the cannabis you’ll find in Nicaragua either resembles seedy brown stuff in Costa Rica, or it will come in the hard shape of a brick. Some have reported being able to pick up an ounce of the brick weed for between $50-$75 dollars. In Nicaragua, the people who have marijuana are the people selling other products. If someone walks past you with a rack of sunglasses for sale, they might have something else in their pocket. The same goes for the lady with the handmade shirts and the one with the hammocks.
It’s smartest to let them offer it to you, which they generally will after their first offer of sunglasses, clothing, or a new hammock. If you agree, they might not have it on their person and you might need to walk somewhere like next to a building or something so it’s not totally out in the open. Be smart; keep yourself safe. Generally, that’s the same thought of the person selling you the cannabis; they don’t want to get caught selling it. Cannabis isn’t as casual in Nicaragua as it is to its southern neighbor. San Juan Del Sur is probably the easiest beach to score at, guys selling sunglasses walk by every 10 minutes it seems. The calm attitude of the community, the interesting architecture, and the swimming and hiking in the area make San Juan Del Sur an awesome place to visit for a cannabis vacation.
Cannabis in Central America, a Must-See?
The cannabis in Central American countries like Costa Rica and Nicaragua itself can be good, but isn’t anything write home about. It’s the people and landscape that gives Central America its particular appeal to the cannabis consumer. For a low-priced smoke, people can enjoy the waves of the Pacific or drink some of the best coffee in the world. It’s a place full of kind locals who will gladly have a laugh with you if you’ll share your cannabis and practice your Spanish. A personal favorite of our team is dipping into the hot springs around Volcano Arenal. It can’t be beaten as a cannabis consumer getaway.
If you know how to speak some Spanish, you might find yourself in a very unique and special place where you’ll connect with people from another country in a way that is only possible through the sharing of cannabis. Be open-minded, stay friendly, and expect the best of Central America’s people, you’ll be grateful when they truly open their doors to you.
Do you have any tips for finding cannabis in Central America? Share them in the comments below!
Traveling without cannabis can be a stressful process, but not as bad as getting locked up by customs for bringing weed on a plane. Use this helpful guide to avoid flying with weed and find the best cannabis in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.