Costa Rica's Congress approves medical marijuana bill

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SAN JOSE, March 1 (Reuters) - Costa Rica's Congress on Tuesday passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana and the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes, following three years of talks and a presidential veto on an earlier version of the initiative.

Legislators from Costa Rica's ruling party and several opposition groups signed off on the bill, which President Carlos Alvarado applauded as being "of great benefit to Costa Rica."

The bill aims to boost the country's pandemic-battered economy and reduce illegal demand for the drug. It will require cannabis producers to register with health institutions and agree to reviews by the Costa Rican Drug Institute (ICD).

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Marijuana cultivation and sale for recreational purposes will remain prohibited.

Alvarado in January vetoed an earlier version of the law, saying it needed changes to limit individual cultivation and consumption of cannabis.

Alvarado could sign the new version into law as early as this week, lawmaker Zoila Rosa Volio said, adding that it maintained core pieces of the original legislation.

"The veto did not affect the key components of this proposal, which will bring investment, generate employment, allow access to millionaire markets, and reactivate the agricultural sector," Volio said.

The country's trade promotion group, Procomer, has recommended that Costa Rica enter the medical marijuana and hemp industries due to growing international demand.

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Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Leslie Adler

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