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20 years

In Tuesday acquittal, Costa Rica court rules that growing marijuana for personal use carries no criminal penalty

Cerdas had been found to be growing marijuana multiple times on the roof of his home just 25 meters from the offices of the OIJ and the Alajuela criminal court.  (OIJ photo with added illustration)

Cerdas had been found to be growing marijuana multiple times on the roof of his home just 25 meters from the offices of the OIJ and the Alajuela criminal court. (OIJ photo with added illustration)

January 20th, 2016 (ICR News) The Criminal Court of Alajuela on Tuesday acquitted 57-year-old attorney Mario Alberto Cerdas Salazar, who was facing 24 years in prison after the man had been arrested multiple times for growing marijuana on the roof of his home located across the street and just 25 meters from the courthouse where he stood trial.

 

In a two-to-one decision by a three-judge panel, the court ruled that Cerdas should be acquitted because there was insufficient evidence that the man intended to sell the marijuana after Cerdas’ defense team successfully argued that Article 58 of the Narcotics Law only penalizes the possession of drugs for sale or distribution, not personal consumption.

 

Defense attorneys successfully argued that in such a case, authorities can only confiscate the plants under Article 137 of the General Law on Health, but that Cerdas should not face criminal penalties unless there was evidence that the man was growing marijuana with the intent to sell or distribute it.

 

Judge Carolina Leitón was one of the two judges that agreed, stating in her verdict, “the officers of the Judicial Police confirmed that they failed to establish that the defendant was dedicated to trafficking [marijuana].”

 

In fact, the Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ) even sent an undercover officer to the man’s home to attempt to purchase marijuana, and Cerdas refused.

 

The judge, in attempting to clarify the ruling, said that while growing marijuana is in fact illegal, it carries no criminal penalty if the intent to sell or distribute the drug cannot be determined.

 

The dissenting judge, for his part, argued that the number of plants that had been confiscated – 184 in total over the course of four separate raids – was evidence enough that Cerdas had intent to traffic in the drug, arguing that the number of plants was sufficient for 5,000 marijuana cigarettes, which the judge claimed was impossible for one man to smoke in a year’s time.

 

Cerdas, who had previously said he used marijuana for medicinal reasons, and his defense team expressed their satisfaction to the court’s ruling, though indicated that he has no plans to resume growing marijuana after the ordeal.

 

For their part, prosecutors say they are considering an appeal.

 

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  • prdatki

    Marijuana should be legalized and taxed, the Money going directly to the schools. The politicians should not get their crooked hands on it.

    • PTTurboe

      Tax stuff grown on private property? Like stuff in your garden?

      • Larry Kirkendall

        legalization could to large and uber large commercial farming, tax it. Home gardening for yourself, enjoy tax free.

  • Canamjay

    totally agree… but CR is notoriously slow to make positive change and way too prone to navel gazing; pushing key decisions along to the next team of grossly overpaid dipsytados..legalization is the only choice but any sort of control or sensible and profitable distribution system just can`t be implemented without corrupting influences…sadly.

  • NothingButNet

    One simple solution is for the legislature to amend the law so that manufacturing marijuana, even for personal use, be considered a crime. This is how the law reads in many states in the U.S.

    • PTTurboe

      The whole world is going in the opposite direction.

    • Larry Kirkendall

      Sadly, the once greatest nation has devolved into a thuggish police state where might makes right, and greed at all levels is the new religion.

    • http://freedomscorner.org/dusty/ Dusty Relic

      This is a terrible idea. The law reads that way in the US and it has been nothing but a disaster. CR is better off with the status quo until such time as a well considered bill to re-legalize can be passed. That may take a while but in the meantime Ticos will be spared the indignities of US-style Zero Tolerance.

  • NothingButNet

    Cerdas has no plans to resume growing marijuana, yet the reason he grew marijuana in the first place is for medical reasons. Wait, what? Praise the lord, he is now cured of the illness he smoked marijuana for!

  • Chris Thomas

    What about the Canadian guy who got 8 years for growing marijuana? What a double standard.

    • Yeims

      He had a commercial operation going, over 300 hydroponic plants and with plans to expand in technology and crop volume. Obviously a high production facility, and obviously not for personal use.

      • SDPUS

        Did they ever show photos of the Canadians crop? Yields outside are easily triple or more of those grown inside.

        The important difference to note, is that one guy was a Canadian and the other a Tico Lawyer.

        And while we know little about each of these cases, I bet an investigation on how both cases were handled would show dramatic differences in the process of justice.

        Remember, this is a tiny country. Lawyers, Judges, Prosecutors all know each other quite well. Many would help the Tico Lawyer. Nobody will help the Canadian.

        • http://freedomscorner.org/dusty/ Dusty Relic

          The lawyer’s outdoor crop was on a roof, not in the ground, so growth would have still been constrained by the size of the planting containers that he was using.

    • http://freedomscorner.org/dusty/ Dusty Relic

      I am pretty sure that Canada and Costa Rica are two different countries with completely different judicial systems, even though they do both begin with the letter “C”. Therefore it would be reasonable to expect each to have separate track records of injustice.

  • Tab RicciBestPot Grower in CR

    Whaaat? It’s legal now?
    Taxes, I don’t pay no stinking taxes !
    Move your arrow over my photo shown here.
    Smoke ‘em if u got ‘em !

  • disgusted

    Also notice they still want to appeal this decision. So is it their hope to get three other judges who will decide differently. Then again another appeal process. If this was expat I am sure the decision would be different.

    Okay so now my roof top can become a garden of herb for my personal use Nice EH! Just need to find some top quality seeds.

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