A controversial alternative awaiting legalization:

Mateo Amador, a seven-year-old Costa Rican boy with cerebral palsy, suffered from epileptic episodes every day until he started using cannabis oil, says his father, who makes his medicine while waiting for the Congress approves legalization of medical cannabis.

“At a year and a half he was medicated with clonazepam and sodium valproate, both of which are addictive. It was difficult to watch him, completely hovered for hours. Now he is not taking anything and has no more seizures. The change has been wonderful, ”says Isaac Amador, affectionately stroking his son’s head in his wheelchair.

Mateo has been seizure free for five years now, according to Isaac, thanks to the cannabis oil drops he receives, which he can only obtain illegally. He adds that his son no longer used drugs which, “in addition to knocking him out, damaged his kidneys”.

“He even improved his assertiveness and his spasticity [muscle tension], adds the father.

Francisco Fonseca, 29, also suffers from neurological disorders and epilepsy. Her family has been giving her drops of CBD (cannabidiol, another derivative of cannabis) for three years, and since then, according to her brother Andrés, her life has improved.

Andres buys the drops from “an underground supplier”, as do 3,500 other people, according to estimates by activists in the country.

A long wait

A bill authorizing the cultivation, production, industrialization and marketing of hemp (non-psychoactive cannabis) and cannabis for medical use was presented to the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica in 2019 and received two month the first of two approvals needed to become law. .

But 10 of the 57 deputies judicially stopped the second vote because the bill must adhere to “the international conventions and treaties that Costa Rica has signed against drug trafficking”, explained at the time the legislator Mileidy Alvarado.

A month later, the Constitutional Chamber declared the appeal inadmissible, but the second vote has not yet taken place because the president of the country, Carlos Alvarado, who was in favor of the project, did not include it among the priorities to discuss. before the end of the year.

Discovery

Isaac, a 46-year-old steelworker, says his son Mateo’s first approach to the cannabis plant was tea with oil extracted from the root.

A lung attack forces Mateo to spend 10 days in the hospital and there he decides to find an alternative.

With his wife, they searched for organizations in Argentina and Chile, two countries where the marketing of medical cannabis is legal, as well as Panama, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay.

Its effectiveness for certain conditions is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is where we discovered this world,” says Isaac, who five years later is growing plants in his attic to obtain the medicines with which he claims to help not only his son, but also other families with children. like Mateo, to whom he gives his production as a gift.

“I’ve never had a legal problem, but I’ve had a problem with people who don’t understand and don’t judge, ‘Why are you giving your son marijuana?’ (…). Of course, at first I was afraid he would be “high” [doped], but with the information, we knew that wouldn’t happen, ”he adds.

This position against medical cannabis is echoed by experts in Costa Rica, such as psychiatrist Luis Carlos Sancho. “This is all very anecdotal, but there is not enough evidence that marijuana is for medicinal purposes. (…). We don’t know what side effects or contraindications it has, ”he says.

“It could be a gateway for further approval for recreational use. There is research on patients with depression, psychotic disorders, anxiety and panic disorders, ”he adds.

Specialization

Isaac says the impact on Mateo professionals has been positive.

“We told the neurologist, the therapists, the educational psychologist, the teachers…. They were all receptive. And over the years, I have met doctors who specialize “in medical cannabis,” he says.

Carlos Hernández, a general practitioner, identifies himself as an expert in cannabis therapies and says that with plant derivatives he has treated epilepsy, fibromyalgia, asthma and chronic pain. He also uses them for palliative treatments against certain cancers.

According to Hernández, the legalization of its use “can be incredible for the economy of the country” but “the most important will be the health, because many will be able to experience positive changes”.

According to the Public Agency for the Promotion of Foreign Trade (Procomer), if the law is approved, Costa Rica would have access to a global market which, by 2025, would be worth US $ 35 billion per year.

by David GOLDBERG

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