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Medical cannabis experts: PR industry in growth spurt

From left: Antonio Quilichini, Ingrid Schmidt, and Julio Benítez during the industry roundtable.

Puerto Rico’s medical cannabis industry is experiencing a growth spurt in patients, clinics and certified doctors and industry professionals, private sector and government officials confirmed.

There are more than 10,000 patients who are currently receiving treatment, close to 1,000 people working for the industry and some 300 doctors authorized to recommend treatment.

Executives agreed much progress has been made in recent weeks since the approval of the Medicinal Cannabis Act in July and the appointment of a Medicinal Cannabis Regulatory Board this month. The Board met for the first time last week and is looking to provide continuity to processes already underway as to not interrupt services to patients, said Antonio Quilichini, director of the Medicinal Cannabis Office.

At the moment the office has 10,211 patients certified to be treated with cannabis, of which 9,705 already have their identification. In addition, there are 293 doctors certified to include cannabis in their treatments, Quilichini said.

However, the number of doctors who have been educated to be able to prescribe cannabis is much higher, according to Alberto Rivera Sánchez, pain management specialist at Ponce Pain Management, which means that the number of certified doctors “has the potential to grow significantly.”

So far, 27 clinics, 11 crops, five manufactures and 11 training providers — companies that certify physicians and employees working in different areas of the industry — have been certified, the officials confirmed.

The Medicinal Cannabis Office also has goals, such as developing a digital platform to facilitate the process of applying for an identification card, Quilichini said.

As part of the short-term goals, Quilichini explained that calls will be opened to certify more crops and clinics.

“Progress has been made in the process in the sense that issuing identification cards for patients has accelerated,” he said. “The cards are now being issued in a period of about two weeks. As part of the measures to streamline the process, the cards are being sent to the Department of Health’s regional offices.”

The Department of Health, along with the Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Association, is organizing patient recruitment efforts to facilitate the certification process and to promote further growth in the number of patients authorized to include cannabis among their treatment options, he said.

But educational efforts continue to be a core part of industry growth, said Ingrid Schmidt of Puerto Rico MedCann.Biz, a consulting and business development firm for the island’s medicinal cannabis industry. This company gathered the experts that provided an industry update Friday.

The update was offered in the context of the upcoming Puerto Rico MedCann.Biz forum: “The Roadmap to Better Medicine,” slated for Oct. 5-6, 2017 at the Convention Center Sheraton Hotel. Renowned international experts on the topic of medicinal cannabis will meet to discuss and promote scientific research related to the uses of the remedy.

Schmidt, who is also a member of the Medicinal Cannabis Regulatory Board, said Gov. Ricardo Rosselló set a target for the Board to certify 25,000 patients by the end of 2017. One of the priorities to meet and exceed that goal is to expand the list of conditions for which medical cannabis treatment can be offered, she said.

Meanwhile, Julio Benítez, deputy secretary of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co., said there are nine agency buildings rented for use in the cannabis industry, located in different parts of the island.

Apart from that, the agency seeks to promote research and development efforts around the industry “that make it possible to export knowledge in this field and generate new economic development opportunities for Puerto Rico,” he said.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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