Puerto Rico Senate president: Health not revenue should be focus for medicinal cannabis
SAN JUAN – After Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado estimated Monday that the medicinal cannabis industry could generate up to $100 million in revenue annually, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz denounced Tuesday that the focus shouldn’t be on the economic aspect, but on healthcare.
“I believe the Treasury secretary spoke to the press today about revenue, [but] to me that is of least importance. The day the government is willing to do anything for money, that’s the day the government loses moral authority. The economic aspect isn’t the priority or the principal [issue], it can’t be. The main issue must be the scientific aspect and between those two, the health-related aspect above all,” Rivera Schatz said.
When questioned by Caribbean Business after the confirmation hearing for Consumer Affairs Secretary-designate Michael Pierluisi, the Senate president said he favored the use of medicinal cannabis just as presented in the administration’s Plan for Puerto Rico, but approval of the bill presented by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló will depend on various issues.
First, the senator said it is important to provide academia with participation during the investigative process into the plant’s medicinal use.
He also wants to be aware of the potential obstacles that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could “present in the management of the money” generated by the cannabis industry, which may currently be deposited in only two local cooperatives. Even though several states have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis, it is still listed as a Schedule I drug in the federal Controlled Substances Act.
“My opinion is the FDA will eventually acknowledge some cannabis derivatives as a treatment option, I believe that will happen. I am not an expert on the matter. We have cited and asked several experts on the subject to come to public hearings and talk to us about that,” said the legislator, who has participated in the joint hearings for Senate Bill 340, which would regulate medicinal cannabis.
The third aspect to consider would be the controls to be established for cannabis use and its handling, especially everything concerning dispensaries, which are currently regulated by aHealth Department regulation established by executive order.
Lastly, Rivera Schatz said he wants to prevent fostering a “profit-making” mentality for some sectors that “have the capital and see this as a profit-making opportunity, ignoring the research, the scientific aspect.”
S.B. 340 continues being evaluated in public hearings, and it is unclear when it would be voted on in any of the legislative chambers, who have presented amendments to the measure.