Costa Rica, which has had medical marijuana patients in a number of countries for decades, has seen a steady trickle of new marijuana shops opening up since the country’s new government took office in December, with many new outlets in the capital city of San Jose.
Costa Rica has been a hotbed of the marijuana trade, and the country has a population of just over two million, making it the world’s second largest marijuana exporter after the US.
But in December of last year, Costa Rica officially became the first country in Latin America to legalize medical marijuana.
The country has not yet legalized recreational use of the drug, but is considering such an option.
“It’s a new frontier for the country,” said Jose López-Garcia, a researcher at the Centre for Research in Public Health in Costa Rica.
“I think it’s a big leap forward.”
The state-run Costa Rica Medical Cannabis Agency is currently in the process of setting up a second dispensary, which is expected to open in early 2019.
The first, which opened in 2016, was a five-store operation.
“With the new legislation, we expect to open two dispensaries in 2019 and one in 2020,” said Carlos Roca, the head of the agency.
The new dispensary will also be operated by a new company, which will operate independently of the Costa Rican government, according to Roca.
“We expect that we will be able to operate the new dispensary in the same way that we have done for other medical marijuana operations,” he added.
A similar medical marijuana operation was set up in Nicaragua in 2013.
According to Lópza, the new pot shops in Costa Rico will not be the first to open.
In June of this year, a marijuana shop in Costa Rican capital San José was the first in the country to open for the public, with a staff of seven.
Since then, dozens more dispensaries have opened in Costa Ricans two other major cities, São Paulo and Miami, with plans to open more in other cities.
“This is a very important development,” Roca said.
“As of now, we do not have any evidence that cannabis is a drug, and we don’t believe that it is harmful.”
Roca believes that legalizing marijuana could lead to an economic boom, with marijuana sales being worth nearly $4 billion per year, and potentially becoming the countrys top export.
“The first year that we opened in Panama, the country is a total cannabis economy,” he said.
The current economic situation is not good, said Roca as he looked over the medical marijuana shops in San José.
“People are very stressed about how to make ends meet.
People don’t know where they can get food, where they will buy medicine, or what they can buy for their children,” he explained.
“Cannabis is an important economic development in Costa and we need to continue to be successful in this new market.”