Is Puerto Rico Joining The Pot Legalization Parade Too?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former 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.


    26 responses to “Is Puerto Rico Joining The Pot Legalization Parade Too?”

    1. TwistedSchism says:

      And their house of cards continues to fall… Time is on my side indeed, they cant hold us off
      Prohibition is being ended by the People !!

    2. Douglas says:

      I bet they will lose lot of money

    3. Ben says:

      There has been talk of Puerto Rico joining the states…

      While that issue is a bit more complex than a mere, ‘yay or nay’, it does make things interesting…

      It would be very beneficial to our movement that if they were going to integrate with the US
      IF they legalized cannabis prior to

      Cannabis Libre!

    4. seabourne says:

      Consider adding your name to the petition based on science and reason to Immediately Remove Cannabis from the CSA and Single Convention Treaty. Each signature sends an email to both Senators and House Representative of the signer along with an email to President Obama.


    5. Pedro Garcia says:

      Pot is nowhere near as dangerous as alcohol, and alcohol is so accepted. Its all about whats glorified in the news, or villified. Legalizing cannabis might curb the murder rate in PR, while providing jobs, and bringing tax money to the island. Yes, its the right thing to do. QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO!!

    6. Julian says:

      The recent ruling written by Justice Sotomayor was a game changer. It shows that if Congress doesn’t compromise on marijuana policy before 2014 it will end up in a 7-2 pro-marijuana Supreme Court.
      But all the while, we’re missing the root of evil in prohibition: Cops, the DEA, have been allowed to write marijuana law for the last 40 years. The Controlled Substance Act is unconstitutional. Please sign my first and only white house petition to end the made-to-fail drug wars, end prohibition, and bring the balance back to the three branches of government like an American Democracy should.
      Here is the link to sign now;
      Thanks NORMAL!
      Don’t forget to donate to the best organization for the greatest civil rights issue of our time; marijuana legalization.

    7. Sean says:

      I’ve been to Puerto Rico. It’s a magnificent place. I hope they do legalize cannabis and I’m glad that they’re having that discussion.

    8. Rob says:

      This is likely about tourism….Colorado ski resorts will likely see a marked increase in skiing visitors who don’t want to be harassed by moron cops in other areas such as Tahoe or NM…These states will follow suit Me thinks as they don’t want to lose tourism dollars.

    9. Fed-Up says:

      Wow,Puerto Rico,18 or so degrees latitude above the equator,same as northern Thailand or southern India.It looks like a tropical “sweet spot” Coffee,bananas,mangos,papaya’s, coconuts you name it…It could be a tropical paradise in the Caribbean, if it wasn’t for certain a-holes.other than that,”it must be nice…

    10. Pedro Garcia says:

      Fed-Up…No, Puerto Rico is not that close to the equator. Comparisons to Thailand and southern India arent appropriate.Let me educate your obviously confused little mind. America claimed Puerto Rico from Spain after the spanish-american war in 1898. Puerto Rico is in a very strategic location, which is why America claimed this 35 X 100 mile island. All ppl born in PR are Americam citizens. English is taught in all high schools. The indigenious ppl there were the Taino,which were all killed off by spain, then england, and others. And Im fed up with all the ignorance in my supposedly well educated America.