The U.S. tiny island territory south of Florida is now considering allowing medical marijuana for various medical conditions, according to the Associated Press. The proposal would also allow for state-regulated medical cannabis dispensaries as well as giving patients the option of growing their own herb.
“Treating this strictly as something that should be punished has clearly not worked,” Rep. Carlos Vargas, the bill’s other author, told the AP.
The bill would allow people with conditions such as cancer, glaucoma and anxiety to access the meds. Supporters say that the number of U.S. states now allowing for medical cannabis as well as recent federal directives on how the Justice Department should be using their funds is what pushed the legislation forward.
The small Caribbean island is also debating a recreational cannabis legalization bill. The bill, introduced by former police chief-turned-senator Miguel Pereira, is still in committee.
Both bills have an uphill battle to fight. Puerto Rico isn’t known for their liberal political leanings and there is a concentrated anti-cannabis effort. Sen. Jose Perez, for example, says the bill is poorly written and doesn’t restrict access to only patients.
“How are they going to control this?” he said. “It’s a delicate subject. I think they’re rushing into this.”
Possession of any amount of cannabis is a felony charge in Puerto Rico with between two and five years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. A second offense could net you up to 10 years for any amount an additional $5,000 fine. Paraphernalia possession – which the bill does not address – is also a felony punishable by up to five years and $5,000.