The Puerto Rico Health Department has enacted a series of amendments to its medicinal cannabis regulations that impose new restrictions on doctors, patients and businesses while allowing municipalities to operate cannabis dispensaries, announced advocacy group Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana.
The amended regulations now allow municipalities to operate authorized cannabis dispensaries or other establishments directly or through public-private partnerships, Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana President Goodwin Aldarondo said Thursday.
“The balance of amendments is positive,” he said.
For example, the distance between a school and a medical cannabis dispensary has now been reduced to 100 meters. However, the treatment of medical cannabis is inconsistent to that of other medical treatments such as pharmaceutical products, he added.
The medical cannabis regulations, now labeled 8766-A, now forbid doctors from giving a medical cannabis recommendation for patients outside their professional offices unless the act occurs in an event authorized by the Health Department.
Moreover, doctors cannot be partners, investors or receive payments from medicinal cannabis establishments.
“Doctors are not forbidden from receiving payments from pharmaceutical companies,” said Aldarondo. Dispensaries can provide informative material for doctors for distribution among patients.
Previously, regulations allowed patients to consume cannabis products at any commercial establishment, provided that the owner provided express authorization. Now, such consumption is prohibited by the Health Department, including at cannabis dispensaries.
“This change creates an obstacle for medical tourism. Visiting patients that consume medical cannabis will not have an authorized place to do so,” said Aldarondo. “In other states that have legalized medical cannabis, consumption is allowed at commercial establishments with the owner’s consent.”
In terms of advertising, regulations only allow establishments the use of digital media such as social media networks, display ads and web pages as long as access to minors is denied. The latest amendments prohibit the promotion, advertising and marketing of medical cannabis to the public through traditional media.
“Promotion by authorized establishments is limited substantially, restricting the flow of information to patients,” said Aldarondo.
The amendments to the regulations were approved Nov. 10, but released to the public last week. Thus, the period for submitting comments has expired. Aldarondo said the regulations will continue to undergo amendments.
“For instance, we believe that advertising of cannabis should be regulated but dispensaries should be allowed to use the media to communicate with patients,” he said.
Aside from the existing occupational license, dispensary employees are now required to receive an additional six-hour training as a “budtender.” Part of the “budtender” training has to be provided by a medical doctor.
Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana will offer on Dec. 17 an occupational license seminar at the facilities of the Polytechnic Universidad in Hato Rey. As part of the seminar the legal aspects of medical cannabis will be discussed, including the latest amendments to the government regulations. A security expert from the state of Colorado will be one of the speakers.
Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana is a nonprofit organization with the goal of educating others about the legal considerations related to medicinal cannabis in Puerto Rico and providing seminars for the professional development of any person interested in joining the cannabis industry. It also assists businesses, doctors and patients seeking medical cannabis licenses.