Updated 03:46 PM EDT, Tue, Oct 20, 2020

Puerto Rico Moves to Legalize Medical Marijuana Immediately

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Puerto Rico's Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed an executive order to decriminalize medical marijuana in the U.S. territory.

According to a report from The Associated Press, the legalization order, which was largely debated in Puerto Rico since 2013, was deemed as an unexpected move.

"We're taking a significant step in the area of health that is fundamental to our development and quality of life," Garcia Padilla said in a statement, as reported by The Associated Press. "I am sure that many patients will receive appropriate treatment that will offer them new hope."

The governor added that Puerto Rico's health secretary has three months to issue a detailed plan of action about how the executive order will be instituted and its impacts. The order, which was taken into effect immediately, will also direct the island's health department in the authorization of "some or all controlled substances or derivatives of the cannabis plant for medical use," the news outlet noted.

Several studies conducted in the United States have claimed that cannabis can provide pain relief from serious diseases, Rolling Stone reported. Despite the Caribbean island's changed stance in medical marijuana, its government still aims to establish a state law that distincts between "medical and non-medical uses" of the drug.

"These studies support the use of the plant to relieve pain caused by multiple sclerosis, AIDS virus, glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, migraine, Parkinson's and other diseases that often do not respond to traditional treatments," Garcia Padilla explained in his statement, as quoted by Rolling Stone. "This administration is committed to ensuring the health of all citizens residing in our country. Hence the medicinal use we are adopting is an innovative measure to ensure the welfare and a better quality of life for these patients."

Puerto Rico joins 23 other U.S. states in legalizing medical marijuana, with a group of U.S. legislators looking for the removal of federal prohibitions placed on it, The Associated Press reported. Jamaica, another Caribbean island, recently passed a law that "partially decriminalized small amounts of pot and paved the way for a lawful medical marijuana sector," the news outlet wrote.

According to Rolling Stone, the state of New York is preparing its own restrictive medical marijuana plan. Voters in Florida also support the drug's legalization for both medicinal and recreational purposes.

Rolling Stone also noted that questions still remain over how the order will be implemented, such as whether Puerto Rico will grow its own medical marijuana plant in the island or it will be imported. Amado Martinez, an activist who supports the legalization of cannabis for all uses, also asked what type of illnesses would get permission for the drug, The Associated Press wrote.

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