Puerto Rico legalizes medical marijuana
Puerto Rico’s governor on Sunday signed an order to authorize the use of medical marijuana in the U.S. territory in an unexpected move following a lengthy public debate.
Gov. Alejandro Garcia PAdilla said that the island’s health secretary has three months to issue a report detailing how the order will be carried out. It’s going to be a long process deciding what illnesses qualify, and whether or not the cannabis will have to be imported to Puerto Rica, or if patients will be allowed to grow their own. The order takes immediate effect.
“We’re taking a significant step in the area of health that is fundamental to our development and quality of life,” Garcia said in a statement. “I am sure that many patients will receive appropriate treatment that will offer them new hope.”
The order directs the health department to authorize the use of some or all controlled substances or derivatives of the cannabis plant for medical use.
Garcia said that the government will soon outline specific authorized medical uses for marijuana and its derivatives. Garcia noted that on the U.S. mainland and elsewhere medical marijuana is used to treat pain associated with migraines and illnesses including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and AIDS.
Jaime Perello, president of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, said he supported Garcia’s order.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “One of the benefits that patients say they receive the most is pain relief.”
Opposition legislator Jenniffer Gonzalez said Garcia’s actions leave the law of controlled substances in what she called a “judicial limbo.” But with medical marijuana being legal in 23 U.S. states and a group of U.S. legislators working to remove federal prohibition there seems to be little blow-back for the legalization of marijuana.
Back in 2013, Puerto Rico legislators debated a bill that would allow people to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, but a final vote was never taken.
Amado Martinez, an activist who supports legalizing marijuana for all uses, said in a phone interview that he was very surprised by the governor’s actions.
He wondered what type of illnesses would receive authorization for medical marijuana, and whether the medical marijuana will be imported or if people can obtain licenses to grow it on the island.
“There are so many questions. We have to look at all those details,” he said.