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Puerto Rico Governor Signs Medicinal Marijuana Bill

July 10, 2017
Puerto Rico became the latest corner of US to adopt a medical marijuana law, with the territory’s governor on Sunday signing a bill that legalizes and regulates the plant for medical use.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed the Law to Improve the Study, Development and Research of Cannabis for Innovation, Applicable Norms and Limits (MEDICINAL Law). The territory’s previous administration signed an executive order in 2015 to legalize medical cannabis, but Rosselló said that move was insufficient.

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“The previous administration ignored the legislative process and, following an executive order, promulgated a regulation without due discussion with all sectors and representatives elected by the people,” he said after signing the bill, adding that those who doubted legalization could gain traction in  the legislature were “wrong.”

“As a scientist, I know firsthand the impact that medicinal cannabis has had on patients with various diseases.”
Ricardo Rosselló, Governor of Puerto Rico

“Since this administration began, we have been working to create an effective legal framework for patients and the medical cannabis industry, by legislation and with the input of all experts in the field,” he continued. “This advanced legislation recognizes medical cannabis as an alternative medical treatment, while maintaining all safeguards to protect the general public.”

Rosselló, who was a scientist before becoming Puerto Rico’s governor, said he believes the law does addresses an important public health issue. He studied biomedical engineering and economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan. He later did research at Duke University, focusing on stem cell research.

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“As a scientist, I know firsthand the impact that medicinal cannabis has had on patients with various diseases,” he said. “The time has come for Puerto Rico to join the flow of countries and states that have created similar legislation.”

The new law will also steer tax revenue toward health care. Medical cannabis sales will incur a sales and use tax (IVU), of which 10% will go to the Trauma Hospital of the Rio Medical Center Stones.

At the signing event, Rosselló was reportedly joined by the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Association as well as several relatives and patients who use cannabis as treatment.

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Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • Fiquito

    Sorry, Gage, you’re missing a lot of context in this article. The law will basically ruin the budding (no pun intended) MMJ industry. The original legal framework had already allowed 6 thousand patients to be carded, and 17 dispensaries to be opened. The new law adds so much red tape to potential patients that it will discourage most of them from even applying. Flower is all but forbidden, allowing it to be used only by severely ill patients whose medical recommendation has to undergo a second review by a medical board with NO customer/patient representation. Patients can only apply for a card if certified by a doctor with a “long standing, bona fide” relationship with the patient. Growers already faced extremely strict requisites; most will now face losing their entire stock because of the added red tape. All of this is the result of the direct influence of a Christian fundamentalist senator (backed by a powerful Christian right lobby) who practically ignored the input of various patient advocacy groups and single-handledly pushed for the new law to be far more strict than what is practical.

  • ipmd

    Fiquito is right, but also, the law is in part trying to adapt to New York’s failing industry regulations. Since the law establishes the creation of a new regulation that could still face more red tape, for example, making it a requirement to have a licence pharmacist on the premise for dispensaries, making it more expensive to run. The director for the School of Pharmacy is lobbying for this regulation stating that under state law, only pharmacist can dispense schedule II narcotics, but not telling licence pharmacists, as well as students, that since their licence is regulated under Federal Law, it trumps state law and thus become the dispensing of a schedule I narcotic, which is illegal an can loose their licence. All this to protect their failing industry as well allying with a pharmaceutical company that calls themselves “cannabis dispensaries” but it is just a shell for pharma type companies; the same ones who are lobbying for the elimination of the flower. It is a step, but not the biggest, and not much forward. Hopefully, experienced doctors and patients will be heard and overshadow the conservative/christian movement that are trying to control the legislation as much as possible.

  • ipmd

    and just a correction, it is Rio Piedras Medical Center