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.
“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.”
“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.
“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.