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First medical cannabis company in Costa Rica

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Published on Tuesday, May 16, 2023
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff and wire services


On Monday, the Ministry of Agriculture authorized the first company in Costa Rica to grow medical marijuana.

Azul Wellness S.A. has been permitted to grow and process marijuana for cannabis production in an area of 800 square meters in a greenhouse located in Filadelfia Canton in Guanacaste Province.

This company will produce two varieties of medical cannabis for export, the ministry said. 

So far, authorities have issued nine licenses for hemp growing, making Azul Wellness S.A. the very first company approved to legally grow marijuana in the country.

Although hemp and marijuana are the same species, "hemp is defined as a cannabis plant that contains 0.3 percent or less THC, while marijuana is a cannabis plant that contains more than 0.3 percent THC," according to a Healthline article.

There are currently two more companies in the process of evaluation and licensing, one to produce hemp and the other to grow medical cannabis.

To obtain a legal cultivation license for hemp or cannabis, companies must first open an application to the National Directorate of Agricultural Extension of the Ministry. Applicants must meet the requirements, where the ministry conducts an investigation. Once everything is complete without any anomalies, the ministry would issue the respective license that authorizes the growing, production and trade of hemp or marijuana.

The potential medicinal properties of marijuana and its components have been the subject of research and heated debate for decades.  According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, THC itself has proven medical benefits in particular formulations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved THC-based medications, dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®), prescribed in pill form for the treatment of nausea in patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy and to stimulate appetite in patients with wasting syndrome due to AIDS.

In addition, several other marijuana-based medications have been approved or are undergoing clinical trials in more countries. The Nabiximols (Sativex®), a mouth spray that is currently available in the United Kingdom, Canada, and several European countries for treating the spasticity and neuropathic pain that may accompany multiple sclerosis, combines THC with another chemical found in marijuana called cannabidiol (CBD).

The FDA also approved a CBD-based liquid medication called Epidiolex® for the treatment of two forms of severe childhood epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. It’s being delivered to patients in a reliable dosage form and through a reproducible route of delivery to ensure that patients derive the anticipated benefits. CBD does not have the rewarding properties of THC.

Researchers generally consider medications like these, which use purified chemicals derived from or based on those in the marijuana plant, to be more promising therapeutically than use of the whole marijuana plant or its crude extracts.

However, the development of drugs from botanicals such as the marijuana plant poses numerous challenges. The institute said that botanicals may contain hundreds of unknown, active chemicals, and it can be difficult to develop a product with accurate and consistent doses of these chemicals. 

"Use of marijuana as medicine also poses other problems such as the adverse health effects of smoking and THC-induced cognitive impairment. Nevertheless, a growing number of states have legalized dispensing of marijuana or its extracts to people with a range of medical conditions," said the institute in its statement.

An additional concern with "medical marijuana" is that little is known about the long-term impact of its use by people with health- and/or age-related vulnerabilities—such as older adults or people with cancer, AIDS, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, or other neurodegenerative diseases. "Further research will be needed to determine whether people whose health has been compromised by disease or its treatment (e.g., chemotherapy) are at greater risk for adverse health outcomes from marijuana use," experts added.

Last year, the government legalized medicinal and therapeutic cannabis and hemp for food and industrial use. But, recreational use, self-cultivation and self-consumption of the cannabis plant are still illegal in Costa Rica.


How could the medical cannabis industry impact the economy in Costa Rica? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments news@amcostarica.com