In contrast to other Central American countries, the possession of drugs for immediate personal use is not a criminal offence in Costa Rica. In August 2013 the cultivation, manufacture, transport and trafficking of drugs have all been made a criminal offence under the same article, which provides for a prison sentence of between 8 and 15 years without making any distinction between the offences. The government of Costa Rica supports the launch of an open international debate on the issue, but has declared itself against decriminalisation.
Pien Metaal, who follows Latin American drug law reform ... told The Tico Times ... that legalizing medical marijuana in Costa Rica “would clearly send a message that can spark a debate in the region... Of course, the debate should not just be about medicinal use,” Metaal wrote, “since in fact recreational use is the largest actually existing phenomena, [for] which simple possession and use are being criminalized and prosecuted.”
Prison overcrowding is a widespread problem in Latin America, primarily because of harsh drug-sentencing laws and inadequate budgets, but Costa Rica may be setting a useful example for dealing with it. In most countries, guards control the perimeter, but groups of prisoners or criminal gangs organize and control life inside the prison compound. Rehabilitation and re-integration programs are limited.