Medical cannabis stalled in Puerto Rico, but hemp moving ahead

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A Puerto Rico legislator has proposed a measure that would allow the cultivation of marijuana and hemp for medical products, but says the government is stalling on developing such a program for the island, a U.S. territory.

Independent Deputy Zoila Rosa Volio said the aim of the bill is economic regeneration through development of value chains extending from agriculture to processing. Licenses would be granted for farming, extraction facilities and laboratories under the proposal.

“It would be a project to generate employment. Many companies that are bankrupt that could start producing these types of products,” Rosa Volio told the website.

Government stalling

But so far the Puerto Rican government has not developed a program to exploit the potential of medical cannabis, Rosa Volio said, noting the government’s failure to develop a cannabis program “leaves billions of dollars to countries like the United States and Canada,” when Puerto Rico could tap into those markets.

“I want to reanimate agriculture. I have asked the government to develop a project so that the broken farmers and cooperatives can start planting, but it’s talking to a wall,” Rosa Volio said.

Industrialization envisioned

Rosa Volio’s proposed measure envisions industrialization of extracts such as CBD from hemp, or marijuana extracts to help those suffering such maladies as Parkinson’s Disease, immune problems, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Medical cannabis production would be regulated and overseen by the country’s Ministry of Health under the measure, officially the “Law on Cannabis and Hemp Production for Medicinal Purposes.” Rosa Volio said the proposed law could spark development of the pharmaceutical industry, and pre-market value chains starting in agriculture.

The Costa Rican Institute on Drugs (ICD) and the Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (IAFA) consulted on Rosa Volio’s proposed bill.

Hemp plan in the works

Irving Rodríguez, director of the Office for Licensing and Inspection of Hemp of the Department of Agriculture, has said his office is preparing a general plan for industrial hemp to submit to the U.S. Department Agriculture, which must approve Puerto Rico’s hemp program.

He said farmers in Puerto Rico could produce 10,000 acres worth of the hemp next year, bringing $100 to $150 million into the territory’s treasury. Thirty research growing licenses and seven manufacturing licenses have already been awarded, and the office expects to award 50 licenses in total, Rodríguez said.

U.S. jurisdiction

Under U.S. jurisdiction, Puerto Rico operates according to the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, which allows industrial hemp to be fully cultivated and manufactured. Local incentives for registered farmers growing hemp are in place, and government owned land and manufacturing facilities are available for rent. Investments in Puerto Rico are protected by the laws of the United States.

Puerto Rico’s Department of Economic Development & Commerce said it has interest in the form of projects adding up to 18,000 acres of land to be developed for industrial hemp farming and its derivates, not including other private initiatives.

Step by step

Stakeholders in Puerto Rico tout the possibility for up to 3 industrial hemp harvests per year on the island, with potential to attract international players and investment. Toward that end, DEDC is:

  • Working with University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez Campus in the acquisition of a GC-MS for cannabinoids analyses in hemp cultivars.
  • Working with PR’s Land Authority to establish a land bank of agricultural lands exlusively for industrial hemp crops.
  • Developing basic industrial hemp manufacturing Standard Operating Procedures to establish Puerto Rico’s industry guidelines.
  • Developing an industrial hemp marketing plan.

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