Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Although the recreational use of cannabis is still illegal in Puerto Rico, as of 2015 medical marijuana is permitted for qualifying patients. However, strict guidelines surround its procurement and use. Patients should understand their rights and the basic regulations surrounding medical marijuana use in Puerto Rico.
The 2015 executive order signed by Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla acknowledged the medicinal benefits of medical marijuana. However, implementing a program required more work from government officials and the Department of Health. Regulation 155 was released after the executive order was signed, and it established the framework of the program and the establishment of The Medicinal Cannabis Regulatory Board (MCRB).
However, there were quite a few elements that needed to be clarified and streamlined. In July 2016, Regulation No. 8766 adjusted how the medical cannabis industry would be regulated. There’s talk that this will only remain in place until an improved framework is agreed upon.
For patients to join Puerto Rico’s medical marijuana program, they must first have one of the listed qualifying conditions. This includes disorders such as cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis among others. The patient must then go to an authorized medical cannabis physician to get a recommendation.
Once the patient receives their recommendation, they must go in person to the Medicinal Cannabis Regulatory Board and submit an application, all required forms, their medical recommendation, identification and the application fee. They then must wait to receive their medical marijuana card from the MCRB. Once they have their card, they must choose one medicinal cannabis establishment to purchase medications from.
If someone is caught using or carrying cannabis without a current medical marijuana card, they can be prosecuted for possession. It doesn’t matter if it’s hash, concentrates or the actual buds, it’s still considered a felony. First-time possession offenders can get up to two to five years in prison. For repeat offenders, this goes up to four to 10 years in prison. Both are also subject to a $5,000 fine, and possession of paraphernalia carries the same penalty.
Patients of the medical marijuana program can carry up to a 30-day supply. However, smoking cannabis and private cultivation are both still illegal.
The recreational use of cannabis is completely prohibited since it’s still considered a Schedule I drug. The law also limits how patients can use their medical marijuana medications. Smoking is not allowed, but they can still use the following methods:
Although patients with a valid medical marijuana card are protected from legal prosecution, discretion is recommended. Patients should use cannabis in the privacy of their residences, not in public locations.
The only doctors legally allowed to recommend medical marijuana are those who have registered with the MCRB to become a medicinal cannabis physician. Doctors are subject to prosecution if they recommend marijuana to patients who do not meet the Department of Health’s criteria. Regulation No. 8766 contains explicit guidelines about the rights and protections both patients and doctors have under Puerto Rican law.
For more information about medical marijuana laws in Puerto Rico and around the world, continue to check back with MarijuanaDoctors.com. Puerto Rico is one of many locations that is adjusting its medicinal cannabis legislation to change with the times. Make sure you have the latest information on these advancements.
We also recommend reading our blog for informative pieces about medical marijuana and answers to the most commonly asked questions.