Legislation to regulate medical cannabis sent to Puerto Rico governor’s desk
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rican governor’s office, La Fortaleza, will now receive Senate Bill 340, which proposes to regulate the medical cannabis industry, after the House of Representatives approved the measure late Sunday night with 39 votes in favor, six against, one abstained and objections raised by Popular Party Democratic Party [PDP] minority Rep. Luis Vega Ramos, who was not allowed to participate in the debate.
Vega Ramos requested a turn to speak about the measure, but was ignored by Speaker Carlos Méndez. The representative’s clamor continued as the House’s leader led the voice vote on the measure.
The bill was approved with the amendments made by the Senate in early hours of Sunday, including limiting the authorization to consume the cannabis flower via vaporization only to patients diagnosed with terminal diseases or on occasions when there is no other treatment options, as proposed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
Gender equity and religious freedom approved
Other bills passed on the last day of this legislative session, which have generated wide-ranging discussions both in the Legislative Assembly and in other sectors of the island, include House Bill 1018 to create the “Religious Liberty Protection Act and Senate Bill 171 on gender equity in schools.
Rep. Vega Ramos, lamented that “it is a sad day for the House,” but not for the world, referring to the LGBTT Pride’s 27th march, which took place Sunday.
For the PDP lawmaker H.B. 1018 “distils” hatred, discrimination and disdain, in addition to claiming that the measure adds “insult to insult.”
“What is the religious freedom that’s looking to be protected? This bill does not solve any problems because Puerto Rico does not have a religious freedom problem,” the representative stressed.
Meanwhile, Joint House Resolution 200, proposed by New Progressive Party majority Rep. Antonio Soto Torres was approved in a 43-2 vote. It allocates more than $18 million to “semi-public entities and institutions, public and private whose activities or services” that contribute to health, education, culture and other programs dedicated to “improving the quality of life of Puerto Ricans.” The funds will come from the Joint Resolution of Special Appropriations of the General Fund 2017-18.
In relative haste, the House passed another 36 legislative measures in the final voting calendar. Among them, Joint Senate Resolution 120, to reallocate $550,811 to the Society for Legal Assistance of Puerto Rico (SAL by its Spanish acronym) and House Bill 799, which proposes to increase the mandatory retirement age for High Risk Public Servants from 58 to 62 years old.
According to the text amending the retirement system law, “this piece of legislation is focused on recognizing the ability of these servants, who at 58 are still physically fit to perform the duties they are required to do.”
The lower chamber also approved the Joint Senate Resolution 150, which allocates to municipalities, agencies and public instrumentalities $11.5 million from General Fund revenue “by virtue of the special tax imposed on the extraordinary dividend of the Joint Underwritten Compulsory Insurance Association.” This resolution was approved Saturday evening in the Senate.