EspañolPuerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed an executive order on Sunday, May 3, to put an end to the prosecution of medical use of marijuana on the island. A press release issued by the governor’s office explained the decision by citing the use of cannabis for health purposes in other US jurisdictions.
Effective immediately, the order authorizes Commonwealth’s Health Department Secretary Ana Rius to allow the medical use of “some or all controlled substances or components of the cannabis plant.”
Padilla also commanded Rius to produce a report three months later, “detailing the efforts made in compliance with this order, and the results obtained and the work plan to follow.”
As a result of this move, marijuana will change its regulatory status from a prohibited controlled substance to medicine, and will be subject to taxation.
The governor recounted all the research highlighting the therapeutic uses of marijuana: “These studies support the use of cannabis to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis, HIV, glaucoma, Alzheimer, migraines, Parkinson’s disease, and other illnesses that often don’t respond to traditional treatment.” Padilla commented further that patients will enjoy renewed hopes and higher life expectancy.
Puerto Rico in a Tight Spot
On Thursday, Puerto Rico’s legislature rejected a tax reform that would have increased the fiscal revenue necessary for the Padilla administration to deal with the crisis.
Governor Padilla responded that he would do anything within his reach to try to fix the island’s financial quagmire.
On Monday, the administration’s economic task force will meet with the governor to discuss the 2015-2016 budget, and how to cut US$1.5 billion in spending.
After learning the negative outcome of the vote on his tax reform, the governor also warned residents of the US territory that they “must be prepared,” because revenues will not keep up with the pace of government spending it needs to operate.
Puerto Rico now joins a long list of US states allowing medical marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington DC, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington.
Among the executive order’s critics is Luis Davila, a lawyer, commentator, and radio host in Puerto Rico who questions the fact that Padilla bypassed the Parliament.
La legalizacion de la marihuana es facultad inherente del legislativo, no del ejecutivo!
— LUIS R DAVILA-COLON (@DAVILACOLON) May 3, 2015
“The legalization of marijuana is an inherent power of the legislature, not the executive.”
Hundreds of Puerto Ricans took to the streets on April 20 to demand the legalization of marijuana. The protest, led by Free Juana — a local cannabis-liberalization advocacy group seeking to get users out of jail — drew the support of politicians, including congressman Miguel Pereira.
“Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes, so no one should be punished for choosing it,” Free Juana commented. They lament that thousands of young people and regular citizens in more than 30 US states and countries are still being arrested over the mere consumption of cannabis.
Edited by Daniel Duarte and Fergus Hodgson.