Given its Caribbean location and territory status, a lot of people assume that weed is legal in Puerto Rico. This assumption is only half true, with recreational cannabis use still illegal. If you live in the United States though, you’ll know that illegal in the Deep South can be completely different to illegal in New England or the West coast. So how illegal is recreational weed in Puerto Rico?
Disclaimer: We cannot guarantee the accuracy of this article at the time of reading. We take no responsibility for any inaccurate information.
Puerto Rico vs The US
When comparing Puerto Rico to the US, think of Connecticut. The two are very similar in size, with Connecticut being just 218 sq mi larger than Puerto Rico (about 3 x D.C.’s larger). By population, Puerto Rico sits between Connecticut and Utah, making it the 30th largest state/territory. GDP wise, Puerto Rico comes in at number 39, far smaller than Connecticut at 23, but larger than Montana and Wyoming combined.
Although it still has a fairly large population, Puerto Rico has seen a drastic decline over the last 15 years. Peaking in 2004 with 3.8 million people, Puerto Rico now has around 3.2 million people. In the last 8 years, Puerto Rico’s population has declined by 16.6%. Percentage-wise, this drop in population dwarfs all US states. West Virginia is the state losing people the quickest but has only lost 2.5% of its population over the same time period. This sharp decline is largely due to the recent hurricanes that devastated the island. The territory is also doing it tough financially, with a lot of its citizens moving to the mainland to seek a better life.
The Weed Laws of Jamaica?
Puerto Rico Weed Laws
In 2015 medical marijuana was legalized in Puerto Rico, by then-Governor Alejandro Padilla. Sales through licensed dispensaries began in 2017. Concentrates, edibles, and vaping are permitted methods of use, as well as inhalers and capsules. Smoking marijuana still remains illegal however, regardless of your medical status.
Because of this restriction on smoking, Puerto Rico leads the US in the portion of edibles sold relative to other ingestion methods. 34.3% of products sold in Puerto Rico were edibles, with flower and cartridges trailing behind at 22.4% and 21.5% respectively. The amount of edibles that Puerto Rican’s consume is double the countries average, at 17.1%. Other states that have a strong love for edibles include Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona, with their consumption rates being 31.2%, 27.5%, and 24.8% respectively.
Recreational weed in Puerto Rico is still not legal, and use without a doctor’s approval can lead to severe punishment. A first-time offense will lead to 3 years of jail time, however this can be changed to between 2 – 5 years depending on circumstances. A second offense will get you 6 years of jail time, but again can be between 4 – 10 years depending on circumstances. Even being in possession of paraphernalia (bongs, pipes, etc) can land you with 2 – 5 years of jail time.
Weed Use Statistics
As of 2 July 2019, the island has 92,499 patients signed up to the medical marijuana program according to the Department of Health. There are currently 30 different conditions that can qualify a Puerto Rican for the program. The five most common are:
- Anxiety – 18.85%
- Chronic Pain – 18.19%
- Depression – 11.07%
- Arthritis – 10.29%
- Muscle Spasms – 9.53%
Of the 92,499 patients signed up, 42% are female, and 58% male. Age wise, there’s a pretty even distribution across most of the age groups.
- 0-20 – 0.49%
- 21-30 – 20.73%
- 31-40 – 21.81%
- 41-50 – 17.61%
- 51-60 – 17.41%
- 61-70 – 13.54%
- 71+ – 8.41%
Will Weed Be Legal In Puerto Rico Soon?
Currently, the most promising avenue for recreational weed to be fully legalized is through the federal government. With the 2020 elections getting ever closer, the majority of democrat candidates have voiced their support for federal legalization. We’ve summarized the current 3 most popular Democratic candidates plans for cannabis, should they be successful. Have a read to see where Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders stand on the issue, and what their plans are.