The Medical Cannabis Industry Is Booming In Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico legalized medical cannabis in the summer of 2017. Two months later Hurricane María tore through the island, leaving it in chaos and without electricity for months on end. Political turmoil and earthquakes followed. And this year, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the population.
However, through it all, the medical cannabis industry has managed to thrive, selling an average of $10 million a month in 2020. To date, sales have reached $51.4 million. Last year, sales reached $128.5 million and produced $14 million in taxes.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” says Raúl Rodríguez, who owns two cannabis stores on the island. “But we can’t complain because we’ve had sustained growth.”
Rodriguez believes the market still has space to grow, particularly in the center of the island, where there are not as many dispensaries as near the capital, San Juan.
“(Metro) areas are saturated and you can find sometimes three stores in five blocks and that is ridiculous for the industry we have here. The center of the island has more space for a new market,” he says.
The restrictions on medical cannabis in Puerto Rico are significant. It can be used in Puerto Rico legally for a specific list of 25 specific health conditions, and it has to be authorized by a certified doctor. There are 394 doctors licensed to prescribe cannabis and 92,500 licensed patients. There are more than 200 cannabis businesses here, but only one credit union offers limited banking services to the entire industry.
Shadiff Repullo, a lawyer and cannabis activist based in Puerto Rico, believes the industry would be bigger if the government would eradicate criminalization. She points out that a person with one ounce of cannabis can still be arrested.
But despite these obstacles, Repullo is optimistic about the industry’s growth. “We have a very old population, more so than any state, because younger people have moved,” she says. “Because of everything that has happened—[Hurricane] María, the governor resigning, the earthquakes—I think there is a lot of anxiety. Since [cannabis] can be used as a prescription for anxiety and pain, there is a big market here.”
Recreational use a distant dream
The possibility of legalization for recreational is not in the cards, as none of Puerto Rico’s political candidates openly endorse it. “Most of the candidates have talked about it, but none of them have talked about recreational use,” Repullo says.
But she hopes that the government will eliminate criminal charges for possession and make it easier for business owners to open dispensaries.
According to Denise Maldonado, who oversees the cannabis office under the Department of Health, it can take from six months to a year to open a store.
“We see that most dispensaries are in the metro area, but this is where we have the majority of the patients,” she says. “I see now that, since we are getting more patients from the center of the island, we are seeing more licenses for stores in these rural areas. As it is right now, the patients have to travel to the metro area.”Despite hurricanes, the pandemic, and economic woes (and maybe because of there things), Puerto Ricans want their weed.
Puerto Rico Marijuana Dispensaries, Delivery, and Doctors
Popular Cities in Puerto Rico
- San Juan, PR 22 Businesses
- Carolina, PR 8 Businesses
- Ponce, PR 7 Businesses
- Guaynabo, PR 5 Businesses
- Caguas, PR 3 Businesses
- Bayamon, PR 3 Businesses
- Humacao, PR 3 Businesses
- Mayaguez, PR 3 Businesses
- MayagÃ¼ez, PR 2 Businesses
- Fajardo, PR 2 Businesses
- Aguada, PR 2 Businesses
- Hatillo, PR 1 Businesses
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Is Weed Legal in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico has viewed marijuana as an illegal substance for nearly a century. Dating back to 1932, Puerto Rico enacted Act 12 which outlawed any form of marijuana within the territory. Any amount of marijuana possession in Puerto Rico is a felony. Even for first-time users, getting caught with small amounts of cannabis will lead to a felony charge, 2-5 years of incarceration, and a $500 fine. The penalty for second-time offenders increases tenfold.
Despite these strict rules on marijuana, medical marijuana was just legalized in 2015 for anyone with a valid Puerto Rico medical marijuana card. Furthering this, in 2017 a new act was established (Act 42) which allowed for much more relaxed rules regarding medical marijuana making it one of the most liberal places for medical marijuana in the US.
Buying Marijuana in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico comprises just about 100 miles of landmass and there are over 80 dispensaries in Puerto Rico, so finding the closest one to you is just a quick car ride away. Purchasing medical marijuana in Puerto Rico is a very easy process and you will find that dispensaries have very relaxed rules and offer a wide variety of products. Just ensure you have a medical marijuana card from either another state in the US or get your Puerto Rico medical marijuana card following the steps below.
Buying Marijuana at a Retail Location
When it comes to medical marijuana, Puerto Rico has it all. There are 87 medical marijuana dispensaries, 25 medical marijuana cultivators, 3 licensed labs, and 13 official delivery services. If you are a tourist heading to Puerto Rico, one can use their home state medical marijuana card with no questions asked. If you are looking to purchase medical marijuana in Puerto Rico as a tourist, you can also acquire a cannabis license very easily.
Using a Marijuana Delivery Service
Puerto Rico allows for the transportation or delivery of medical marijuana to anyone around the island. There are currently 13 delivery services on the islands, and they will deliver anywhere. To take advantage of this service, just call your favorite dispensary and they will use the delivery service they like best!
Store hours vary quite a lot in Puerto Rico, but you will find that dispensaries stay open longer than most other places in the US. Puerto Rico is very relaxed about medical marijuana and you can visit a dispensary at any hour. But be sure to check your favorite dispensary’s operating hours before your visit.
Purchasing restrictions are ordered by doctors rather than a state mandate. Doctors are allowed to prescribe a 30-day supply to patients and that is the legal limit when purchasing marijuana. Without an exact prescription, patients can purchase up to 2.5 ounces per month.
All cannabis products found on the island are grown locally, so cannabis is always fresh and of high quality. Puerto Rico offers all types of medical marijuana products so if you can imagine it, chances are they have it! Most noticeably, Puerto Rico even has created a special THC infused hot sauce that is very popular amongst the locals.
Taxes on Marijuana in Puerto Rico
Taxes on Recreational Marijuana in Puerto Rico
Recreational marijuana is still very illegal in Puerto Rico. Therefore, one must obtain a medical marijuana card if wanting to purchase marijuana. Any sale of marijuana that is not medical is illegal and does not go through a proper system of taxes and regulation. Since recreational bills have not been fully drafted yet, it is unclear on how Puerto Rico would implement taxation on recreational marijuana.
Taxes on Medical Marijuana in Puerto Rico
Medical marijuana does face pretty high taxes in Puerto Rico compared to other places in the US. Medical marijuana is subject to a tax known as the Sale and Use Tax or SUT for short. The SUT currently sits at a whopping 11.5%. In comparison to other states with medical marijuana, taxes are usually cut in half at around 5-6%. This makes medical marijuana a little more expensive in Puerto Rico, but it provides huge tax revenue to the territory.
Possession laws have a dual nature to them in the state of Puerto Rico. Unless otherwise stated by their doctor patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana products per month. However, a doctor has the authority to recommend or prescribe less than 2.5 ounces per month in which case a patient may not possess more than their doctor’s prescription. It is not super common that a doctor will put additional possession restrictions on a patient, but it is certainly a rule that must be followed.
Using Marijuana in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico takes possession of marijuana very seriously especially when it comes to possessing marijuana near schools. Marijuana is not to come close to school property or else one will face massive fines. There have also been no businesses established where patients can legally consume cannabis. Therefore, marijuana is only to be consumed in the privacy of one’s own home and out of sight of the public eye.
Areas in Puerto Rico that DO allow the use of marijuana:
- The privacy of one’s own home away from the public eye
Areas in Puerto Rico that DO NOT allow the use of marijuana:
· In any motor vehicle including boats.
· In the workplace
· On any school grounds public or private including dormitories or university parks
· Any public place
· In the presence of anyone under the age of 18
· In any fashion that could endanger the health or well-being of a person other than the patient
Smoking on Federal Lands
As you may know, marijuana is illegal on a federal level in the United States. So, what this means is that every place owned by the federal government has to abide by their rules. Smoking or possessing marijuana of any kind on federal lands is highly illegal. If one is caught, they will be prosecuted by a federal court which involves a lot of time and fines.
Medical Marijuana in Puerto Rico
The medical marijuana program in Puerto Rico is very relaxed and has exploded in growth after dispensaries opened in 2017. Puerto Rico is unique in that any medical marijuana doctor can recommend cannabis for any reason. From this, anxiety is the number one medical marijuana condition in Puerto Rico with just about 20% of its patients using cannabis to treat this condition. As of now, there are just under 100,000 medical marijuana patients in Puerto Rico and new patients are registering every day.
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Puerto Rico
Getting a medical marijuana card in Puerto Rico is easy and costs just $100 – $150. Here are the steps to get your own:
1. Visit an authorized medical marijuana doctor and get their recommendations letter.
2. Create an account with the Puerto Rico Medical Marijuana Program.
3. Find your doctor’s recommendation and add it to your profile.
4. Complete Puerto Rico’s application and submit a 2in x 2in passport-style photo.
5. Wait to be entered into Puerto Rico’s Department of Health database.
After all of these steps, you will obtain your medical marijuana card in the mail and you can begin purchasing medical marijuana from nearby dispensaries.
Out of State Medical Cards Puerto Rico
Out of state medical cards are accepted in Puerto Rico. Anyone with a valid medical marijuana card from the United States can purchase cannabis in Puerto Rico. Tourists are even able to purchase temporary cannabis licenses to treat any condition a doctor will recommend cannabis for.
How to Transport Marijuana in Puerto Rico
Transporting Marijuana in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is quite strict with how one transports weed across the state, but it is still legal. If any marijuana product is in one’s car it must be sealed and in the back seat or trunk out of the driver’s reach. Marijuana of any kind cannot be stored in the glovebox. If a cop smells marijuana, they have the right to investigate the driver.
Driving While Under the Influence of Marijuana
There is no legal limit that is safe to drive in the state of Puerto Rico. Any sign of impairment will warrant a drug inspecting officer to be notified and sent to investigate one’s driving condition. If found driving under the influence of marijuana, one’s license will be suspended, and they will have to pay massive legal fines and carry out court-mandated punishment.
Driving Across State Lines with Marijuana
Despite legalization efforts, no one under any circumstances is allowed to drive across state lines with marijuana. This is slightly different in Puerto Rico as one cannot drive out of the state. Therefore, the only way to transport marijuana from Puerto Rico to other states is via airplanes, which is also highly illegal. Anyone caught trying to smuggle marijuana across an airport will land themselves in serious trouble.
Growing Marijuana in Puerto Rico
Patients are not allowed to grow their own marijuana in Puerto Rico. Only state-licensed cultivators are allowed to grow and manufacture medical marijuana products. If one is found growing marijuana, they will be charged as a felon, facing mandatory minimum sentences and massive fines.Find Puerto Rico marijuana dispensaries, deliveries, seed banks and doctors in popular places like San Juan, Carolina, and Ponce ]]>