Despite stricter regulations on access to the most medically potent part of the marijuana plant, the flower, Puerto Rico is poised to become a leader in exploration of the use of cannabis for medical purposes, thanks to a terroir and pharmaceutical infrastructure that is ideally suited to growing and processing the medicinal herb.
According to Encanna CEO James Marshall, who helms the only company with grow, manufacturing and dispensary licenses in Puerto Rico, the island territory has long been a great steward of its land—made up of lush vegetation and rich soil—it is ideally suited for the growth of cannabis with benefits that rival traditional pharmaceuticals. Additionally, with more than half of all manufacturing on the island coming from the pharmaceutical industry—25% or the GDP—from companies like GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and others, the island boasts a large knowledge base to lend to the cannabis industry.
While being ahead of many other states regarding the use of medical marijuana, the U.S. territory’s strict agricultural standards perhaps plays a bigger role in Puerto Rico’s progressive marijuana story.
“Of even greater importance is the island’s emphasis on the sort of rigorous oversight and self-imposed standards of crop regulation, where there is a genuine investment in maintaining the environment and emulating the quality control standards common to the manufacture of most pharmaceuticals,” Marshall told Huffington Post contributor Lawrence Engler.
The story comes on the heels of legislation regarding the use of medical marijuana that landed on the desk of Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló last week and was quickly signed. Although it placed greater restrictions on the use of the medical marijuana by those who need it—vaporization of the flower is now only allowed for terminal patients or those whose doctors have specifically recommended it—it is what Roselló calls a “sensible” solution to disputes among legislators over the authorization of medical cannabis. (For more information, click here.)
The use of medical marijuana was one of the key parts of Roselló’s 2016 campaign for governor, when he proposed the Research, Regulation and Dispensing of Medicinal Cannabis for Certified Patients Program. The program’s details, which were revised when traveling through the House and Senate, firmly outlines public policy regarding medical marijuana usage, and was formally approved on June 26.
While critics of the final legislation, which limits access to the most beneficial part of the plant–the flower—to many patients, the move is one that will still put Puerto Rico ahead of many other regions with similar growing conditions, allowing them to become a leader in medicinal marijuana research.
“Puerto Rico can turn into an important center for scientific research of medicinal cannabis products,” Rosselló said.