Whether in politics, law regulations, social conversations or the health industry, medicinal cannabis or anything derived from it, has become a controversial topic for the last decade. Should it be legal or not? Is it harmful to our health or beneficial to it? For Lirio Rivera, a 62-year-old native and citizen of Puerto Rico, cannabis has been nothing but healing. As interviewed by NBC News on April 12, Rivera talks about her experience with medicinal cannabis after successfully using it to treat fibromyalgia. Growing up as a religious person in a very conservative society, like most people of her generation, it was embedded in her beliefs that cannabis “pot” was a harmful drug and a bad thing. Now, after having such positive results from the plant Rivera says, “If people knew the healing power of cannabis, everyone would be growing it in their patios.”
Since medicinal cannabis has been approved in Puerto Rico, Rivera has been only one of the thousands of people who are involved in the scope of the industry, whether selling, buying, growing or manufacturing. As shown on the Medicinal Marijuana Page, Puerto Rico currently has 77,000 registered patients and it is only expected to grow to 100,000 by the end of the year. The government has granted approximately 80 licenses for dispensaries throughout the island while roughly 40 of them are already opened for business. The projections that have been studied and calculated after the legalization of medicinal cannabis in Puerto Rico following the Act 42-2017 or more commonly known as the “Medicinal Act” reflect that by 2020, all cannabis related activities will have reached $100 million in tax revenue. It is also determined that by the steady growth of the industry, by 2020, all related cannabis programs will have created and employed over 20,000 people.
Not only are patients in Puerto Rico learning about the numerous benefits of medicinal cannabis, but investors and business developers are also taking advantage of the profitable and growing market. Draco Rosa, Puerto Rican singer and songwriter, has been one of the many who have invested in the industry. Rosa even created his own line of products after partnering with Nexgen and offering many products from edibles to oils. Like many others inspired by the healing effects of cannabis, Rosa is cancer survivor who not only believes in the power of the plant, but also in the tremendous potential the market holds. In an interview with NBC News, Rosa says, “You can’t run from the haunting of cancer, but you can at least live more at ease so that your body can heal.”
Medicinal cannabis, although a growing industry in Puerto Rico, is still in some cases a sensitive and polarizing issue. For Rivera, even after experiencing how medicinal cannabis has aided her in living a more normal life, she is still afraid that she might be judged by others if they know of her association with it. Rivera is only one of the many who feel that way.
Even with the stigma that medicinal cannabis may carry, it is now the time where the law is on our side, so Puerto Rico must start an open and honest conversation about cannabis and all that it englobes. As patients or citizens who understand the benefits of cannabis, we have the responsibility to propel the knowledge forward. Whether it is biology of the plant, financial literacy of the market, job openings, or personal experience of the consumption of the plant, if you know the answer, educate people. Let’s talk about cannabis, and most importantly, let’s talk about it more often.