Medical cannabis has been legal in Puerto Rico since July 9th, 2017 after the enactment of Law No. 42—now amended by Law No. 15, passed on July 29th, 2021. This statute, governing medical issues, creates a legal framework for the study, development, and investigation of cannabis for innovation, and also establishes applicable norms and limitations. The act also created a Regulatory Board of Medical Cannabis, entrusted with powers and obligations. As Puerto Rico introduced this piece of legislation, the island joins the other thirty jurisdictions of the United States who have regulated medical cannabis to some extent, within the limits and conditions set forth under federal law.
Medical Cannabis Regulation in Puerto Rico
Through an e-platform, the Regulatory Board of Medical Cannabis of Puerto Rico duly administers and oversees compliance with medical cannabis legislation and regulations in force. The board also implements efficient and fair compliance oversight policies in a way that patients are able to obtain the highest quality products and—therefore—improve their quality of life.
However, many patients are still facing workplace and social discrimination in the island. In May this year, the Senate passed a law that prevents prisoners released on parole to go back to jail for using medical marijuana. Additionally, this statute bans employer discrimination against employees using cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Passed with 21 votes in favour and 3 against, Bill No. 524 aims at removing the use of medical cannabis as a cause of parole violation.
Cannabis Books and Recipes
In this context, businesses are approaching the medical cannabis industry in multiple ways. Stores are already selling food, drugs, books and medical products containing cannabis or related to this plant. Cookbooks and other books on cannabis have been launched into the market. Puerto Rican lawyer Alexandra M. Rodríguez Espinoza has let her creativity soar and wrote Hierba Buena: The Art and Science of Cooking with Cannabis. As someone who is aware of the challenges faced by new patients using medical cannabis and as an industry expert, Rodríguez Espinoza has come up with a book of recipes explaining how to reap the therapeutic benefits of cannabis in food, based on Puerto Rican cuisine.
Typical Food and Medical Cannabis
The lawyer, specialised in administrative law and medical cannabis, claims that “the products available at dispensaries are not suitable for every patient. Not everyone is able to vape or likes gummies. In the same way, there are many patients with diet restrictions—such as people with diabetes—who cannot buy the edibles sold at dispensaries due to their high sugar or refined flour content. On another note, manufactured products may result too strong for medical cannabis first-timers,” she explained.
Fuelled by the desire to address such need, Rodríguez Espinoza shares 40 traditional Puerto Rican recipes and provides warnings related to consumer use and cooking methods, as well as information on the must-have equipment to cook with cannabis, and how to calculate cannabis intensity for each portion.
The lawyer, who is currently a staff member at NGO Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana, gives training courses on cannabis and provides legal advice to growers, manufacturers, and dispensaries. Alexandra M. Rodríguez claims that the main purpose behind publishing this cookbook is to provide an additional tool that allows patients using medical cannabis to obtain the benefits from this plant in a way that is most suitable to their health conditions and their needs.