Medical marijuana businesses in Puerto Rico are less than a year old, still infants in the industry and they are having an extremely difficult time recovering from the Category 5 hurricane that hit the island on September 20th of this year. Hurricane Maria caused catastrophic damage to the island, killing more than 40 people and costing the island millions of dollars in damages to businesses and property.
The medical marijuana industry in Puerto Rico was only legalized in December of last year and it has had little to no time to get on its feet before the natural disaster took place.
“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,” said Goodwin Aldarondo, the president and CEO of Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana.
“You’re talking about millions of dollars of damage and we just started as an industry,” he added.
Most of the grow houses in Puerto Rico are indoors, so the plants require artificial light and constant watering. Owners have now been working tirelessly to keep the plants that survived the storm alive. Only about 17 percent of the island has access to power and projections state that most of Puerto Rico will not have access to power until December. For now, the grow operations must rely solely on diesel operated generators to power the grow lights. Obtaining diesel was extremely difficult soon after the storm but it is becoming more and more readily available. Unlike access to clean drinking water.
According to the Department of Defense, 36 percent of the island still does not have access to clean water. Finding enough water to irrigate hundreds of plants is still a huge issue.
“Of course this is medicine and having potable water is still a challenge on the island,” said Ingrid Schmidt, the president of the Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Association “Every player in the industry has been trying to mitigate the problem in order to satisfy that area, but it’s still hard to get water at those amounts.”
In Puerto Rico, medical marijuana is legal for alleviating more than a dozen diseases and conditions including, but not limited to: Alzheimer’s, cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy and more.
Patients need to obtain their medicine and dispensary owners fear that many people do not have the money to pay for their medicinal cannabis. With multitudes of people on the island living without water or power, it is safe to assume that their money is going to be spent towards living necessities prior to paying for medicinal marijuana.
That is why The Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Association is planning to host a fundraiser to provide vouchers to fill a patient’s one-month prescription if they are struggling to make ends meet since the storm.
To help get patients their medicine, the Puerto Rican Department of Cannabis approved a new rule that allows patients to refill their prescription from any clinic, regardless of the dispensary they have been assigned. This new rule will continue until two weeks after the state of emergency or until the board decides to terminate it. Before the hurricane, patients could only refill their prescriptions from the dispensary they are assigned to.
“We were expecting a lot from this industry,” said Schmidt “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.”
The owners and operators are intent on getting the people their medication and will not let their patients down. We are also confident that they will overcome these difficult circumstances. They have already shown they more than capable with 20 of the 29 dispensaries in Puerto Rico having already re-opened their doors.
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