Puerto Rico’s medical marijuana industry: an unlikely victim of Maria
It seems Puerto Rico just can’t win for losing lately. In July we covered a story about how Medical Marijuana being legalized in Puerto Rico might have been a boon for the islands. At the time, it was believed that the new regulations and opportunities for the industry would bring around an extra $50 million per month in revenue to the islands drowning in debt. Yet fate has dealt the islands a raw deal and, at least temporarily, deferred the payout.
For those who aren’t experts on the growing of medical marijuana, who may envision fields of marijuana sprouting like corn in rows on a farm stretching out green towards the horizon, things are much more complicated than that. In order to strictly control the crop and prevent theft and illicit use and distribution, growers are usually restricted to growing in indoor facilities that are kept under lock and key to protect the plants as much as possible. 90% of Puerto Rico’s growing facilities are indoors. This may seem like a boon considering that 80% of Puerto Rico’s crop value was destroyed outside by the hurricanes. With the fields destroyed you might hope that the little marijuana stayed safe tucked inside its locked buildings. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Many growers had their roofs blown off and without electricity for growing lights in the wake of the hurricane, those that didn’t die in the hurricane have since died. All of the outdoor growing facilities were destroyed in the hurricane. The manufacturers of medical marijuana also had their facilities destroyed and equipment damaged. Growers can also forget about finding clean water to water what plants remain given the problems Puerto Rico is facing obtaining clean water. Official estimates of the damages have not been released by the Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Association yet, but the damage is estimated in the millions. The industry is unable to receive any federal money for recovery due to federal regulations.
The good news is that 20/29 dispensaries have opened their doors, which means that at least those in need are able to access their medicine. Legislators have even temporarily scrapped a part of the law that restricted patients to only be able to obtain their prescription from one designated dispensary. Due to the crisis, they have lifted this restriction and now islanders can get their prescription from any open dispensary that they can get to. Hopefully, the dispensaries have enough product to keep patients well until the industry can get back up on its feet.
photo credit: Marijuana / Medical Marijuana Dispensary / Medical Marijuana Collective by Susie Plascencia from Flickr