Puerto Rico: Legislators Hold Public Hearings On Marijuana Legalization Bill
By Steve Elliott
Lawmakers in Puerto Rico held public hearings this week on a bill that would legalize marijuana for personal use.
Residents, community leaders and doctors spoke on Tuesday about a measure that would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for those 21 or older, reports The Associated Press.
The bill was submitted earlier this year by former federal prosecutor and corrections secretary Sen. Miguel Pereira, who has said that cannabis possession cases are costly. Pereira has noted that 80 percent of prison inmates are serving time for nonviolent crimes.
Another recently submitted will would let Puerto Ricans use marijuana for medicinal purposes, creating a system to legally produce cannabis under the regulation of health authorities, reports Fox News Latino. That bill, coauthored by Rep. José Baez, hasn't yet been debated.
It delineates a list of medical conditions that would allow patients to smoke marijuana in their homes. Qualifying conditions would include cancer, glaucoma and anxiety.
The bill would also allow Puerto Rico's health department to award permits to patients to grow their own cannabis if they couldn't afford to buy it in an authorized dispensary, or if they lived too far away.
"Treating this strictly as something that should be punished has clearly not worked," said Rep. Carlos Vargas, the medical marijuana bill's other author.
"This Legislature cannot ignore U.S. trends, especially when these reforms offer concrete and proven solutions to various social and economic problems that are affecting Puerto Rico," the bill's introduction states.
Last April, dozens of people marched through San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, amid growing support for marijuana law reform, reports NORML.