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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The Supreme Court's most recent ruling is a major blow to one of the most controversial aspects of the War on Drugs. The Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement must cut back on their civil forfeiture programs, a policy where police officers confiscate property, money and possessions of people suspected of crimes. The Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause applies to states as well as the federal government, so states and local governments can no longer collect excessive fines, fees or forfeitures.

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