Puerto Rico currently finds itself in the midst of a debt crisis that threatens the economic future of the US protectorate. Finding no relief from the US or other international partners, they may have found a solution on their own. Medical marijuana became legal in Puerto Rico earlier this year, and many believe the green rush may be a path to economic sovereignty.
Puerto Rico, like much of the western world, found that it could be profitable to leverage their assets in the form of bonds. Unfortunately, they over leveraged themselves, resulting in a debt of nearly 70% of their gross domestic product. Puerto Rico’s creditors have since seized the opportunity to further leverage the island’s assets, fundamentally enslaving them financially to outside forces. Puerto Rico’s debt is minuscule when compared to the global economy, coming in at around $70 billion dollars. Taking advantage of the new green economy could be the first step in putting Puerto Rico’s financial future back in their own hands.
Puerto Rico started to explore legalization of cannabis in 2013, yet it didn’t appear that public sentiment supported it. Well, hard financial times can change minds very quickly. Medical marijuana became available to patients in March and is available via dispensaries for those carrying a patient ID card. As of May, there were more than 4,000 licensed patients and application pending for another 7,000. Everywhere cannabis goes, prospering economies follow. Will the boost that medical marijuana brings to the island be enough to convince the government to go full rec? Once the money starts to flow, the differences between medical and recreational cannabis start to appear blatantly arbitrary.
Puerto Rico may soon find itself missing an opportunity, as competing tourist destinations are already moving toward cannabis-based economies. Jamaica did an about face on their stance on pot, overwhelmingly due to their own financial crisis. When pushed on the ideology behind prohibition, especially when faced with financial hard times, governments can either cling to outdated thinking, or decide to move forward into the new era. Puerto Rico has an opportunity to reinvigorate tourism while diversifying their eggs into a whole new basket. Marijuana tourism works wonders for state and local governments and will undoubtedly do the same for Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico brings in around 1.5m tourists per year, who visit the island primarily by way of cruise ship. If only a fraction of visitors bought into the local marijuana market, Puerto Rico could see it’s financial woes behind them in no time. Making the shift to marijuana-based economy is a sure bet for a sunny vacation paradise. The problem lies in overcoming the rigid mindsets that still lie in opposition to a new green economy. Ultimately, the need to overcome financial obligations and to grasp hold of a stable future for its residents will lead lawmakers to the right decision.
Cory Hughes is a former police officer turned cannabis cultivator and writer. After years of being on the wrong side of the law, Cory decided to hang up his badge and gun and move into an industry that truly has the potential of bringing people together. He has been an active part of the Colorado cannabis culture and has worked as a horticulturist in dozens of licensed grow operations. Cory now looks to share his knowledge of cultivation and horticulture with the world.