Three Medical marijuana dispensaries will be opening their doors in the cities of Barceloneta, San Juan and Toa Baja, located in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
Outgoing Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla visited one of the dispensaries on Friday for a pre-opening ceremony. Mr. Padilla signed the executive order legalizing medical marijuana in early 2015, and was succeeded Monday by new Governor Ricardo Rossello.
The dispensaries are opening two years after Padilla’s administration adopted regulations that allow for cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of medical cannabis. Nearly 2,000 patients have registered with Puerto Rico’s health department to obtain medical marijuana, and the medical products on the island will include pills, creams, patches and oral drops. Smoking and cultivating marijuana for personal use is still illegal, but Mr. Garcia has stated that prosecution of such offenses will be a low priority.
The two dispensaries are regulated by the island’s Department of Health (DS), and are currently awaiting final results from tests on the quality of medical cannabis products. This shows that Puerto Rico’s cannabis industry could perhaps be the most regulated under U.S. jurisdiction. "The results could come at any time, and the dispensary can start,” said Ricardo Soto, a spokesman for the company NextGen Pharm in Toa Baja.
A shareholder in the the Health Clinic Cannabis Dispensary, Jose Aleczer Rivera, explained the goals of the island’s medical cannabis industry.
"We are convinced that from Barceloneta, we come to heal Puerto Rico, physically, mentally and economically," said Mr. Aleczer of his clinic. "It's like a pharmacy where properly certified health professionals are going to be caring for patients in a controlled, elegant, clean and pharmaceutical environment.”
The Barceloneta dispensary plans to offer a treatment center so certified patients can medicate under the supervision and assistance of a health professional.
"The medical cannabis industry is much more regulated than the pharmaceutical industry,” Mr. Aleczer added. “We hope that in a week and a half we can dispatch the first drugs.” 23 firms have obtained permits to grow, process, transport and sell marijuana on the island.
“It is a historic day for Puerto Rico, and NextGen Pharma is proud to be part of this moment. Today marks the fulfillment of a promise in favor of the rights of thousands of patients in Puerto Rico to a better quality of life,” NextGen Pharma managing partner Carmen Serrano said at the opening of the company’s San Juan dispensary.
Sworn in on Monday, new Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello has pledged to push for U.S. statehood, in part fueled by an ongoing economic crisis that has shaken Puerto Rico.
"The United States cannot pretend to be a model of democracy for the world while it discriminates against 3.5 million of its citizens in Puerto Rico, depriving them of their right to political, social and economic equality under the U.S. flag," Rossello said in his inaugural speech, translated from Spanish. "There is no way to overcome Puerto Rico's crisis given its colonial condition."
It is reported that the new Governor is in support of the Commonwealth’s new medical marijuana regime.