Puerto Rico enacts medicinal marijuana into law

by Jul 21, 2017Puerto Rico1 comment

Puerto Rico made a progressive step earlier this month and enacted a law legalizing medicinal marijuana. The bill signed into law by Governor Ricardo Rosselló on July 9 creates a full legal explanation of exactly which uses for medical marijuana will be allowed. It also tackles questions of taxation, revenue, and other important considerations.

The bill fleshes out and regulates the previous administration’s executive order that technically already legalized medical marijuana. The previous administration under Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla was unable to agree on a medical marijuana bill. However, the then governor signed an executive order in May of 2015 legalizing the industry. The problem with the executive order was that it lacked specificities pertaining to issues such as the growth, production, and sales up in the air. To combat that, the Department of Health was left to draft a report on how the decision would be implemented. The report drawn by the Department of Health was more thorough, going into minute details about the ways in which the marijuana could be grown and distributed. Additionally, it includes rules and regulations for the vetting of farmers.

Although the executive order technically legalized medical marijuana, without a bill the exact legality of the process was in limbo. The new bill creates firm legal standards and regulations to be followed. It delineates a list of 14 medical conditions that are able to be treated with medical marijuana. Furthermore, the bill has important implications for taxation. The sale of medical marijuana will be subject to a sales and use tax. The bill stipulates that 10% of the revenue from that tax will go to fund the Trauma Hospital of the Rio Piedras Medical Center.

The bill is of considerable personal interest for Rosselló, who was a scientist before turning his sights on politics. He studied biomedical engineering and economics during his years at MIT. He followed those studies by earning a PhD from the University of Michigan in biomedical engineering. Rosselló even researched stem cells at Duke University. Of the bill, Rosselló stated, “[s]ince 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. This advanced legislation recognizes medical cannabis as an alternative medical treatment, while maintaining all safeguards to protect the general public.”

The bill includes clauses for the allocation of funds for further research. The bill authorizes the collection of administrative fines and pledges 50% of the income to the University of Puerto Rico for the research and development of medical marijuana. Rosselló and others are hopeful that the bill will stimulate the economy. It is estimated that the sale of medical marijuana could generate $50 million a month in sales revenues. The taxes taken could help with Puerto Rico’s desperate financial situation.