Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an executive order Sunday allowing the use of medical marijuana on the U.S. island, as reported by the Associated Press.
The order comes after some debate on the subject in the island. Many details are still left vague. How will it be distributed? Will growing be allowed for patients? What kind of illnesses will qualify for a doctor’s recommendations? Will all products of cannabis including extracts be included in the bill? The answers to these questions are not known at the moment.
What is known is that the order comes as a surprise to most, on the island and off. Gov. Garcia said that Puerto Rico’s health secretary will submit a report on the finer points of the law within the next three months. Implementation of the order will go into immediate effect.
There is no official list of illnesses to be treated with cannabis, but in a statement Garcia mentioned the use of marijuana in the U.S. and other countries to treat pain, migraines, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy, among other illnesses.
“We’re taking a significant step in the area of health that is fundamental to our development and quality of life,” said Garcia. “I am sure that many patients will receive appropriate treatment that will offer them new hope.”
Acceptance of medical marijuana is not unanimous in the territory. Jennifer Gonzalez, a legislator in opposition to the MMJ measure, said the order will leave the enforcement of controlled substance laws in a “judicial limbo.”
That’s an interesting argument, and one that ought to be discussed. Is it better for marijuana law to be a in a gray area or in a black area where it is definitely illegal? If lawmakers withhold from enacting marijuana laws because they’re problematic then legislative progress will come to a standstill. All marijuana laws are messy for consumers, suppliers, and law enforcement, and no U.S. state currently has a perfect set of laws or even one that should be expected to remain stagnant for very long. But that doesn’t mean that new laws, even ones with complications, can’t also be a sign of progress
This opinion was echoed by Jamie Perello, president of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, who supported the measure. “It’s a step in the right direction,” Perello said. “One of the benefits that patients say they receive the most is pain relief.”