Is Puerto Rico Joining The Pot Legalization Parade Too?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director April 25, 2013

    With little media attention stateside, Senator Miguel Pereira has introduced legislation that would legalize marijuana in the US territory of Puerto Rico. Also, activists for marijuana law reform took to the streets of San Juan this past 4/20 weekend to show public support–one of the first public rallies ever in Puerto Rico for marijuana law reform.

    From the CaribbeanBusinesspr.com

    Dozens of people marched Saturday through Puerto Rico’s capital amid growing support for a recent bill filed by a former police chief that aims to legalize marijuana for personal use, unleashing an unprecedented debate in this conservative U.S. territory.

    The crowd marched to the seaside Capitol building, where Sen. Miguel Pereira filed a bill this week stating it should be legal for those 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. The former federal prosecutor and corrections secretary said possession cases are costing the government money, noting that 80% of inmates are serving time for non-violent crimes.

    His comments have polarized the island, with some legislators demanding his resignation.

    “It’s outrageous that someone who was elected by the people tries to use his position to cause addiction, sicken and destroy Puerto Rican society,” Sen. Itzamar Pena said.

    Critics say the proposal would further fuel violence on an island of 3.7 million people that reported a record 1,117 killings in 2011, with police saying that 70% of killings are drug-related. Others expressed concern that police, teachers and doctors would smoke while working.

    “This measure has to be studied extremely carefully,” Sen. José Perez Rosa said. “It’s not like alcohol, where acceptable levels (of use) exist.”

    Currently, those charged with marijuana possession can face up to three years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

    Justice Secretary Luis Sánchez Betances did not say whether he favored Pereira’s measure, but he said the government should find alternatives to the current law.

    “This opens a public debate,” he said.

    Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla echoed a similar sentiment in a press conference this week.

    “I don’t have a problem with an open debate about the possibilities, benefits or drawbacks of such a measure,” he said, adding that the issue is not a priority for his administration.

    Last year, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for those over 21. The law, however, bans the public use of marijuana.

    Puerto Rico joins a handful of other Caribbean islands, including Jamaica and St. Lucia, where there has been a push to legalize marijuana use.

    In Jamaica, government officials previously reviewed recommendations to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposal has the backing of several church leaders, but it has not gained traction on an island that remains the Caribbean’s largest pot exporter to the U.S.

    In St. Lucia, supporters also have spent more than a decade lobbying the government without success to endorse a commercial hemp project.


    25 Responses to “Is Puerto Rico Joining The Pot Legalization Parade Too?”

    1. dragon eyes says:

      Sen. Pena talks w/o knowing the facts about maryjanes. His comments of crime w/ drugs is only referred to drugs like herorin and cocaine, which is widespread here on the island. If a real poll was taken today, the percentage would be high in favor of maryjanes.This island is in dire need of jobs and i am sure loads of people would applied for it immediately.

    2. Dr. Croft says:

      Alcohol is legal, I don’t drink it!
      If weed become legal, I want smoke it!
      Legal or not it’s not gonna make people, who don’t like Weed smoke it.
      FYI. . One friend died from alcohol posing. .
      BILL I ON $$$$$ ??????

    3. Pedro Garcia says:

      Hola Annabella. okay first of all, many Puertoriquenos, LIKE ME, have Taino features. I am extremely proud of my bronze skin, hair, nose, etc. I was referring to the Tainos that were killed off. None of us can be pure Taino, but we are their descendants. We are at least Taino and Spain. Then of course France, Africa, and others. AND, I blame American govt for not educating Puertoriquenos about who they are, and how they came to be. How else can they know??

    4. Pedro Garcia says:

      Its crazy when people who drink alcohol criticize marijuana. And many of my loved ones in PR, love their Bacardi…and beer, wine, etc. Like many ppl here in Florida, they have been brainwashed. Im not sure what it will take to correct their thinking, especially because there is so much drug-related violence on the island. Like Ive tried explaining so many times, its not necessarily the drug that causes the violence, its because its illegal. Sellers dont want other sellers to steal their customers. Pot should be legalized immediately. If you smoke pot, the very last thing you want to do is fight. QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO!

    5. Annabella says:

      As for marijuana being legalized I highly doubt it. These people still think its like reefer madness or like heroin. They will call you a tecato if you smoke and judge you. It would be the smartest thing they did as it will surely increase tourism and jobs but those in power already steal enough money so they don’t really care about making Puerto Rico a better place.

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