Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla of Puerto Rico signed an executive order yesterday legalizing medical marijuana in the U.S. territory. The order enables the Puerto Rican Health Department to authorize the use of marijuana and its derivatives for medical purposes. The Health Secretary now has three months to produce a report etching out the details of the new system. In 2013, a medical marijuana bill was introduced into the Puerto Rican legislature but remains stuck in the House of Representatives.
“Governor Garcia’s executive order is exactly what was needed,” said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It was the right and legal thing to do given both the absence of a ballot initiative process in Puerto Rico and the inability of the legislature to pass needed legislation.”
Twenty-three U.S. states, the District of Colombia and Guam have approved medical marijuana laws, four jurisdictions have passed laws taxing and regulating marijuana for adult use, and the federal government has made clear that they will not interfere with properly administered state marijuana programs. Jamaica recently passed a far-reaching marijuana bill, which will set up a legal medical marijuana industry; the Chilean government has authorized a foundation to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes; and in 2013, Uruguay legalized both medical and non-medical marijuana.
“Governor Garcia’s action is a compassionate move, and demonstrates a regard for scientific evidence,” says Hannah Hetzer, Policy Manager of the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This will alleviate the unnecessary suffering of thousands of patients in Puerto Rico, while also generating revenue and much-needed employment.”
"We're taking a significant step in the area of health that is fundamental to our development and quality of life," said Governor Garcia. "I am sure that many patients will receive appropriate treatment that will offer them new hope."