While we have already seen four states and D.C. legalize recreational marijuana, with more and more states gunning all the time (now that many have seen the sky won’t fall) it should not be too much of a surprise to hear that the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico could be the next to legalize marijuana on a recreational level.
They passed medical marijuana into law last year – and while that gave the potential to help thousands of people, it still did nothing to address the criminal element of the herb. With current penalties even first time offenders could be looking at a felony charge, 2-5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines for simple possession charges.
The Governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, has called for the legalization of marijuana all around, in order to lower crime and use revenue to reduce the $69 billion debt of the island territory.
Puerto Rico’s governor has called for the legalization of marijuana during his last public address as leader of the U.S. territory.
Alejandro Garcia Padilla said Monday that taking such action would lower crime and target hypocrisy. He said legislators should at a minimum approve a bill filed in 2013 that would decriminalize marijuana. Puerto Rico’s Health Department recently adopted a regulation allowing the cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of medical marijuana. – WDTN.com
It appears that Padilla is not planning to seek re-election this November – which might have been part of the reason he was so willing to use a portion of this last speech to address the importance of legalizing marijuana. It’s not very often that a current governor is willing to be so up-front about the issues of marijuana prohibition.
Considering the extreme nature of the penal system in Puerto Rico, I would like to bet that a rather large portion of their jails and prisons are occupied by nonviolent drug offenders. This kind of reform would help to start reversing the negative repercussions of the War on Drugs that failed so many years ago.
Whether it is only decriminalization for now or if the territory decides to take their current governors advice and legalize the plant entirely is up for debate. It would be nice to see the island follow through with legalization, being another group to set an example for the rest of the country and the world to follow.