Puerto Rico Senate amends and approves measure to regulate medical cannabis
SAN JUAN – In the early hours of Sunday morning, Senate Bill 340 to regulate the medical cannabis industry in Puerto Rico was approved with amendments in a 20-10 vote that included the opposition of independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot and the spokesman for the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), Sen. Juan Dalmau Ramírez.
The legislative measure filed by the New Progressive Party (NPP) authorizes the vaporization of the cannabis flower only by patients diagnosed with terminal diseases or when other “appropriate treatment” options are not available. This alternative was suggested by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Thursday.
“If we don’t approve a bill that paves the way, then those who want to recognize the power of medical cannabis but don’t want to vote in favor are the first hurdles we have to overcome,” Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said after highlighting the industry’s potential and the people who will seek to benefit from it.
During Saturday night’s session, the Vehicle and Transit Act was amended to prohibit driving under the effects of medical cannabis, as well as requiring that patients can only be recommended the treatment after evaluating their medical history.
With this last amendment, the measure defined the doctor-patient relationship and established that treatment recommendations must be made by doctors who are authorized by the Medical Advisory Board. This panel will be composed by Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez, two recognized physicians, an authorized pharmacist and a person in academia with research experience.
Ten percent of the revenue generated by the sales and use tax (IVU by its Spanish acronym) on cannabis will be directed to the Río Piedras Medical Center’s Trauma Hospital, while 50% of the fines imposed for violations will be assigned to the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) operating budget.
The proposed Act to Improve the Study, Development and Research of Cannabis for Innovation, Applicable Norms and Limits further establishes that cannabis will be under Classification II of the Controlled Substances Act, which will only allow for consumption in households and private property, according to the legislative measure.
“The net outcome of this effort is a quite complete measure, but not perfect. Our legislation, as expressed by [Colorado] Rep. Daniel Pabón…is this law is a complete and advanced law that will put Puerto Rico in a very important scientific and health development area,” Rivera Schatz stressed when asking the senators to vote in favor.
The bill would allow treatment with medical cannabis for such conditions as chronic pain, anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, arthritis and cancer. If approved in the House of Representatives and signed by the governor, the island would join more than 30 jurisdictions that have regulated the use of cannabis.