Puerto Rico legalized medical marijuana last December in an effort to spur economic activity for the island, which is in about $74 billion of debt. But damage done by Hurricane Maria has set the industry back quite a ways.
“Big manufacturing and grow facilities have had their roof blown off, there is water in their manufacturing rooms, equipment damaged, no light for plants and most are dead," Goodwin Aldarondo, the president and CEO of Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana, told NBC News. “You’re talking about millions of dollars of damage and we just started as an industry."
The Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Association is working hard right to determine the cost of damage done so companies can begin receiving payments from the industry's insurers. Since marijuana is illegal at the federal level, Puerto Rico's medical marijuana industry cannot receive aid from the United States government. This is particularly problematic since the medical marijuana business was one of the few areas in Puerto Rico that was growing prior to the hurricane.
“We were expecting a lot from this industry,” Ingrid Schmidt, the president of the Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Association, said to NBC. “It’s the only industry that was creating jobs and a lot of hope was put into this industry because it was critical to the financial circumstance that our island is going through.”
Medical marijuana companies aren't the only ones feeling the damage. In the weeks following the hurricane, only four of the island's 29 marijuana dispensaries were able to open. Under Puerto Rico law, medical marijuana patients were only allowed to purchase products from one assigned dispensary, but those rules were relaxed. Currently 20 of the 29 dispensaries are now open.
Considering how much marijuana legalization has helped states in America, let's hope the cannabis industry in Puerto Rico is able to rebound quickly and continue providing jobs and opportunities for the island.
(h/t NBC News)