Drug possession for own use will not be prosecuted

Judicial agents found these 348 doses of crack cocaine when they made an unrelated arrest earlier this month. Judicial Investigating Organization photo

The country is becoming more drug friendly because prosecutors cannot handle the load of individuals detained with small amounts.

The fiscal general, Jorge Chavarría, outlined the procedure in a meeting Friday with other top law enforcement officials. The procedure appears to have been enforced for nearly a year without public disclosure.

Basically cases of possession will not be referred for further judicial action but the drugs will be confiscated, according to the procedure. However, each case will be reviewed by a prosecutor to determine if the amount of drugs involved or the situation amounts to a delito or felony. Those that do will be forwarded for criminal action, according to a summary of the meeting released by the Poder Judicial. The Judicial Investigating Organization is supposed to set up a reception office where the prosecutor will be located.

Chavarría said that mere possession of drugs does not constitute a felony. Drug sales and transportation still will be prosecuted, according to the fiscal general.

In 2010 there were 124,722 cases of simply possession and each one cost the judicial system 307,000 colons to process, he said. That’s about $600.

The drug procedure is similar to one that existed relating to street robberies and thefts. Robberies and thefts that did not reach a threshold amount of at least 100,000 colons were not prosecuted. That policy has been rescinded.

Costa Rican law has favored those who have drugs for personal consumption. Basically those detained with small amounts of drugs faced a fine. Sale and other aspects of trafficking receive tougher penalties.

Law enforcement actions show that possession, sale and other crimes are linked. For example, the security’s ministry’s Policía de Control de Drogas detained suspects in Puntarenas and Tibás Friday.

In Tárcoles on the central Pacific coast agents detained a 25 year old and a 29 year old and confiscated 37 doses of crack, two doses of cocaine and some marijuana.

In Cinco Esquinas de Tibás other agents conducted raids that resulted in the detention of a 29 year old who was the subject of an arrest warrant. He has prior arrests for robbery and for carrying a firearm illegally. Confiscated were 109 doses of crack cocaine. Also detained was a 16 year old.

In both cases, the presumption is that the drugs were for sale, but the outcome of the case has not been determined yet.

For years police in San José have not prosecuted marijuana use. In one case reporters watched police chuckle as a man passed by smoking a marijuana cigarette.

In certain sections of the central canton of San José public drug use is visible. Usually the drug of choice is crack cocaine, which is smoked in a pipe.

Many thefts and burglaries have been blamed on drug users.

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