Charbonier Points Out Gaps in Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Ruling
SAN JUAN – For the House Legal Affairs Committee chairwoman, María Milagros Charbonier, “Regulation 155 for the use, possession, cultivation, manufacture, production, manufacture, dispensing, distribution and research of medicinal cannabis” leaves out who supervises that new industry in Puerto Rico.
This was made clear by the legislator during public hearings carried out by her committee on House Resolution 65, which orders the body to investigate the legality of the process followed by the Health Department in enacting said regulation.
Cited to the hearings were the Mental Health and Addiction Services Administration (Assmca by its Spanish initials), the Health Department, the Hogar CREA addiction centers and the Institute of Forensic Medicine.
Charbonier, who presented the measure for the committee’s consideration, current cannabis regulations could be annulled by virtue of U.S. Supreme Court cases and by provisions in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which prohibits distribution of marijuana and establishes that the federal government, not the state, has the power to regulate and criminalize the use of cannabis, even for medical reasons.
The legislator also expressed concern over the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) -the plant’s principal psychoactive ingredient- in the amounts dispensed to patients and how it could affect their health.
“I want to know what type of marijuana is dispensed for medical use, and if the professionals believe that what the ruling authorizes is beneficial or harmful for patients. Because if, in effect, the THC percentage could harm human life isn’t identified, we have a Health Department dispensing marijuana that I don’t want under my responsibility, that can cause harm or death to any patient,” she argued, although scientists have yet to present facts that correlate cannabis use to death.
Hogar CREA sub-administrator Israel Figueroa warned Monday that the cannabis dispensed for medical use doesn’t have the necessary controls because current regulation “doesn’t require that the THC be regulated,” and explained that the ruling doesn’t specify the amount of THC a product should contain.
Following her expressions, Charbonier requested the Health Department’s representative, Antonio Quirinquiny, to clarify Figueroa’s statement.
“We must see if medical professionals understand, scientifically, that what is being authorized is beneficial for people who are being treated [with cannabis],” she said.
Moreover, she made several petitions on information looking to repeal the current cannabis Regulation 155 and substitute it for Regulation 8766, as well as the determinations of former Health Secretary Ana Ríus, who reclassified marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act.
During the hearing, a takeover of responsibilities arose regarding the regulatory scope for cannabis between Assmca and the HD.
As pointed out by Luis Meléndez, representing Assmca, from a regulatory standpoint, it is difficult for the Health Department to follow that process because the administrative order signed by former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, which authorizes Ruling 155, divided the regulation process, stripping it of power, as those charged with regulating the drug are controlled substance inspectors, as established by Art. 5, sections 11-A of the Controlled Substances Act.
“So we have an industry without regulation?” questioned Charbonier.
The legislator explained that a person certified administratively and not legally changes the perspective before a courtroom, as Health inspectors don’t have legal authority to present a case before a judge.