In recent years, Puerto Rico has been in the news for financial troubles that could culminate in the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history. Currently, the territory is $70 billion in debt and has no way to repay it. One solution to this growing economic problem is medicinal marijuana, even with the government putting up roadblocks at every turn. The Puerto Rican government has made the process of entering the medical marijuana field very difficult and has created trouble operating within the current system. Some of the present issues may be due to a learning curve on the part of the elected officials, but there is also some resistance and lack of resources to blame. In the end, the patients are the ones who end up suffering the most.
There are over 4,000 registered patients in Puerto Rico, with 7,000 more awaiting their patient ID cards. The Department of Cannabis, a branch of the Department of Health in Puerto Rico, is severely understaffed and lacks resources with reports of only one machine available to print new ID cards. This creates a bottleneck that greatly slows down the process.
Unfortunately, this is not the only problem in the process of receiving a medical marijuana ID card. Once a patient secures a recommendation from a doctor, they must then take that notification to a notary to get it certified. The twist is that the only people who are legally allowed to be notaries in Puerto Rico are lawyers. After first seeing the doctor, and then a lawyer, a patient must then take their certified recommendation to the Department of Cannabis, where it is reviewed. This entire string of events is extremely time consuming. not to mention expensive, as the application fee can range from $100-$150.
There is a large investment not only financially, but also in effort, especially for patients who do not live in San Juan and must travel upwards of up to two and a half hours. Now this may not seem like a lot to some, but when factoring in the fact that most of the people who are applying for the medical card are sick or impaired in some way, it makes travel very difficult.
Even when loved ones of the patient attempt to help, it is still time that they have to take off from work or some other venture in their normal lives. In addition to residents attempting to get their ID cards ,visitors to island, who have a valid medical marijuana card in another state, must go through a very similar system that locals do. This process could take up an entire day of a visitor’s vacation or business trip and comes with the same application fee as the local one.
These inefficient processes, along with the lack of resources, are turning a viable financial opportunity for Puerto Rico into a misstep for the time being. However, with a better infrastructure in place, and some slight changes to the regulations, the Puerto Rican government can turn the situation around quickly and efficiently.