Puerto Rico Hoping Marijuana Can Keep Its Economy Afloat

The economy in Puerto Rico isn't in a great state right now, and their government is trying some radical ideas to try to improve its well-being. One of those ideas? Legalized marijuana. 

Puerto Rico legalized medial marijuana two years ago, and the United States' territory has already begun greatly expanding its industry. Nearly 9,000 Puerto Ricans have already registered to used medicinal cannabis. Puerto Rico's treasury secretary believes that the territory could generate up to $100 million per year through marijuana tax revenue.

The economy of Puerto Rico has not been flying in recent years. The territory's unemployment rate is around 12 percent, about 8 percent higher than the United States' national average. The government is also facing more than $70 billion of debt and is forced to make severe budget cuts to make afloat. As a result, the island is seeing a drastic population decrease as people flee towards mainland United States. But Puerto Rico hopes that marijuana can reverse some of these trends. 

“Name one new industry in Puerto Rico capable of generating millions and billions in capital and improving an economy in a mega-crisis," says David Quinones, operations director of Natural Ventures, the island's largest medical marijuana producer. "There is none."

But Puerto Rico has only legalized medical marijuana so far, and some believe that the economic impact won't be enough unless the territory legalizes cannabis recreationally. Puerto Rican economist Indira Luciano says, "The stricter the law, the less economic impact it will have."

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Right now, cannabis can only be legally purchased through dispensaries or online retailers, but that could change if a group representing corner stores across America gets its way. The lobbying arm of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is preparing to fight for the ability of their members to sell weed once it becomes federally legal in America. NACS doesn't have support for federal cannabis policy reform on their official agenda, but that doesn't mean they don't want a piece of the pie if the industry is legalized nationwide.

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