Will Puerto Rico Legalize Marijuana?
- Medical marijuana is legal in Puerto Rico.
- However, recreational use is still prohibited and penalties can be stiff.
- Lawmakers on the island are working to decriminalize marijuana in Puerto Rico.
- If the island ever decides to legalize adult recreational use it could increase tourism and raise standards of living on the island.
Medical marijuana is currently legal on the island of Puerto Rico. But don’t take that to mean that the island is going soft on marijuana use. Penalties for possession outside of the medical program are still the same as they are for hard drugs. According to José Aleczer Rivera, co-founder of the Free Juana Foundation and owner of The Health Clinic dispensaries, currently, there’s no distinction between marijuana, cocaine, or crack.
Marijuana Venture Article States:
In an interview published in Marijuana Venture, Rivera said: “Despite having a five-year regulated industry running, a simple cannabis possession is still an offense that entails a three-year sentence.”
The author of the article elaborates:
“Now, five years after [medical marijuana] legalization, a check-in with industry players reveals that significant efforts are still needed to make a more just, equitable, and accessible industry. However, despite these challenges, Puerto Rico can still become a leader in medical cannabis on the global stage and, if legalized recreationally, [marijuana] can become an epicenter for cannabis tourism.”
However, lawmakers on the island have been working to introduce legislation to decriminalize marijuana. And there has been some discussion about legalizing adult recreational use. For example, Puerto Rico Representative Héctor Ferrer Santiago has been working to introduce legislation to decriminalize marijuana in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico’s legislature has debated decriminalizing marijuana in the past. Although such measures have been quashed by the island’s conservatives government, the legislature seems to be tipping toward liberal values.
The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) now holds half of the seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. And it was a PPD governor who legalized medical cannabis by executive order. Other gubernatorial candidates have also expressed an interest in deregulating marijuana.
Decriminalization would help the island’s economy and security by freeing up law enforcement and judicial resources currently being used to enforce the island’s tough marijuana laws.
Will Puerto Rico ever legalize marijuana?
While decriminalization seems to be imminent. It’s really only a matter of time before Puerto Rico legalizes marijuana. Should the U.S. federal government remove marijuana from the DEA’s list of controlled substances legalization will become even more likely.
If marijuana is legalized in Puerto Rico, the industry will be ready. The structure is already in place. Although there are approximately 250,000 licensed producers on the island, original projections were twice that number. And 500,000 is the number that the industry has been gearing up for.
José Maldonado, editor-in-chief for Revista Crónicas puts it this way:
“No other industry is investing as much in the retail side, with more than 200 dispensaries in less than five years, where you see large investments. We might have too much supply and not enough demand, because we’re not registering patients with the speed that we should be, being a medicinal-only market.”
Often called the “Las Vegas of the Caribbean,” Puerto Rico welcomes 2-3 million tourists each year. That’s almost equal to the island’s entire population. If the island does legalize adult recreational use (and smoking), it could prove to be a huge boost to the island’s economy and standard of living.
With so much at stake for both the industry, the people of Puerto Rico, and the government, you can be sure that advocates inside and outside the industry will be working to pressure lawmakers to act.