Is cannabis legal in Costa Rica?

If you walk in different parts of Costa Rica, you might detect a skunky smell. That’s probably cannabis, marijuana or “mota” as the local slang terms refer to it. When visiting or in vacation you might get confused and think that cannabis is legal but is not.

If you walk around different parts of Costa Rica, you might detect that smell, particularly at the beach.

When visiting or on vacation, you might get confused and think that cannabis is legal, but this post is meant to clarify a few things.

So why people smoke so freely in Costa Rica?

Well, the first thing you must know is that Costa Rica has decriminalized the use of drugs, meaning that consumption itself will not take you to jail.

But hold on. This doesn’t mean that you can openly smoke on the streets, or in cafés or restaurants.

Using drugs may not be illegal, and local culture can be permissive regarding cannabis use (and paraphernalia or accessory shops), particularly in beach towns. That said, keep in mind that buying and selling are still punishable offenses.

This is why in Costa Rica, you will not find dispensaries or regulated points of sale for any THC product whatsoever.

Will I go to jail for a joint in Costa Rica?

No, it would be rare for a prosecutor to put you in jail for a small amount of marijuana. But take this into consideration: the Narcotics Law 8204 technically says you cannot carry any “small dose” of any kind of drug.

While it’s not clear what exactly constitutes a “small dose”, the only reason the police might let you go is that the judiciary system tries to concentrate its time and resources on serious drug trade activities.

But in any case, if you get caught with drugs at the wrong moment or wrong time, you could get in trouble. It doesn’t happen every time, but it’s a possibility, especially when many tourists tend to seek illegal activities.

Can I grow Cannabis in Costa Rica for personal use?

The Narcotics Law 8204, which is also consistent with international drug laws, has clearly stated that it is illegal to sell, distribute, stock, or grow cannabis whether on a small or large scale.

So, you might think Costa Rican law enforcement is less repressive than the US or Canada, but in principle, it is not. It only takes a call to the police from any random person or neighbor, and it could be enough to start an investigation that might get you in trouble.

There have been some cases in which people grow cannabis in small spaces. But following the famous Mario Cerdas case (a lawyer who set out to prove that growing cannabis at home for personal consumption was not a felony) we learned that this is not 100% certain, because this lawyer still ended up in jail and losing all of his assets.

So, it depends on various factors, but growing cannabis for personal use is not legal until a new law establishes the contrary.

Is it legal to get THC products from the US or Canada with a medical card?

No. The drug laws, in general, are not only local but also part of the International Narcotics Laws signed by countries in the United Nations.

So, airports not only comply with local drug laws but also with international ones, and THC is still illegal at a cross-border level.

Is medical cannabis legal in Costa Rica?

Yes, but only 0% THC products like CBD hemp derivatives.

CBD is now legal and available all over the country. The Health Ministry has decided to officialize products with an “official health ministry registration” known as “registro sanitario” (Spanish term), which basically means they’re safe for consumption.

CBD is legally sold as food or dietary supplements, so you can find different products in local green stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, sport stores, farmers markets, and more.

If you want to know more about this, don’t miss out on our complete article on our post on the subject of CBD.

Andres Vedova

CR Nomads Commercial Director


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