In a surprising move, Puerto Rico’s Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an executive order to legalize medical marijuana on the U.S. territory island. While there has been a lengthy public debate about legalizing marijuana in Puerto Rico, not many expected the governor’s decisive action on the matter. Garcia said in a statement cited by AP:
“We’re taking a significant step in the area of health that is fundamental to our development and quality of life”
“I am sure that many patients will receive appropriate treatment that will offer them new hope.”
The executive order directs the health department to “authorize the use of some or all controlled substances or derivatives of the cannabis plant for medical use”. A report on the details of the plan and its implementation is expected within three months. Still to be decided are the types of medical conditions covered and the avenues for safe access, including whether medical marijuana will be cultivated on the island or imported from the mainland.
Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives President, Jaime Perello, is quoted as supporting Garcia’s executive order.
“It’s a step in the right direction”
“One of the benefits that patients say they receive the most is pain relief.”
In addition to providing the medical relief people desperately need, the measure is partly in response to Puerto Rico’s desperate financial situation. With 15% unemployment and 45% of the island’s population living in poverty, many have proposed legalizing marijuana (and prostitution) as a way to help pay down some of the $70 billion in debt and move the economy toward sustainability.
Puerto Rico’s Caribbean neighbor, Jamaica recently moved to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. Jamaica’s laws are very liberal in how medical marijuana tourists can obtain a temporary permit (self-declare). Depending on how Jamaica’s economy is impacted by its new laws on pot, it may serve as a model for Puerto Rico and other island nations looking to cash in on marijuana tourism.