Cannabis is in need of reform in many parts of the world. That includes Puerto Rico, where Héctor Ferrer Santiago is now leading the fight to reform the country’s attitudes and laws. He explains, for example, that it currently costs the government about $138.00 a day, or $50,000 a year to keep a prisoner, which is hard to justify, even if you don’t agree with cannabis legalization.
Representative Héctor Ferrer Santiago is aware that the decriminalization of cannabis is a polarizing issue, but the young legislator is betting that, in this second decade of the 21st century, Puerto Rico will move with the current of countries and states of the United States, who have abolished prison bars to punish cannabis users.
While this is happening, other cannabis legalization events are happening all over the world. Keep up to date with them all by downloading our free Hemp.im cannabis news app.
Ferrer Santiago Summons Talk about Cannabis
A few weeks ago, Ferrer Santiago – 27 years old – summoned experts, people from the government, and legislators to talk about the issue in some dialogue tables with a view to reopening the discussion in the Legislative Assembly.
“In the next few weeks, I hope to have the cannabis bill, file it, and start a discussion in public hearings, a deep discussion of where Puerto Rico wants to go. The facts are the facts and the numbers do not lie. Since the 1970s when President Richard Nixon began the war on drugs, all the statistics tell us that we have lost it, that we have spent billions on this war, that we have spent too much time, “said the legislator in an interview with Primera Hora.
“When we study the jurisdictions in the world we have realized that they have been making progress on this issue. Puerto Rico took the first step with medical cannabis, but there are two more avenues in which we have to dig deeper and make decisions. One of them is the decriminalization of cannabis and the other is to create a regulatory framework that regulates the quantities and quality of cannabis,” he said.
Redefining Personal Cannabis Use
He said his proposal would define what is personal use and the amount that the person using cannabis could have in their possession. He specified that the amount could be the same as that allowed to medical cannabis patients, who can currently buy up to 28 grams of the product in certified dispensaries.
“That is the number we are looking at, 28 grams for personal use. Personal use, as defined in Portugal, is that amount that can be used in a period of one week ”, added Ferrer Santiago.
He pointed out that the legislative proposal also seeks to establish what kind of education “we are going to provide for the future” on the use of cannabis, if the legislation would apply retroactively to people who are currently serving prison for simple possession of cannabis and if this it is removed from the criminal record.
“In my understanding, it should be done, the application has to be retroactive and it also came out of the dialogue tables that consumption or possession is going to be decriminalized, but it is not that people are going to be smoking wherever they want. One cannot go to smoke in a school, in a public square, on the sidewalks. If they are going to consume it, let them do it in residences as medical cannabis patients do. What we are looking for is that the possession that the person has of the marijuana substance does not have to go through a criminal process, that the Police do not have to invest their time and money in persecuting these people, “he said.
A Need for Reform
He explained that currently, a prisoner costs the government about $138.00 a day, more than $50,000 a year. “Is it really worth pursuing and prosecuting a person who has possession of cannabis? Of course, you have to make a difference between the person who has personal use and the one who seeks to distribute and sell it because they are two different things and therefore, the importance of defining what is personal use and what is the amount that the State it will allow for the future that the person has in his possession,” he indicated.
How are you going to convince the legislators of your party and other delegations who do not believe in the decriminalization of cannabis? Even the president of the Chamber, Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, has already said that a proposal like his does not have the votes in that legislative body.
“In the roundtables, it was said that decriminalizing cannabis should also include a regulatory framework and that is under analysis at the moment, but this is about educating on this issue. It is controversial, polarizing and I knew it. That is why I decided to do it in a different way from the past. I have not followed the normal tract of a legislative process when a measure is filed, I am proposing and I have already done so, to sit down with the experts on the subject so that they are the ones to recommend and we can establish an advanced bill. Experts on the subject have to be brought in to educate legislators, as well as the people and the press so that they speak correctly when we talk about decriminalization, when we talk about the legalization, of cannabis.
What moved you to delve into the cannabis topic?
“I am the youngest (in the Legislative Assembly), even in my house cannabis was taboo. It is not until Papi (Héctor Ferrer Ríos) falls ill with cancer that he begins to see the positive effects that cannabis has and after seeing that life experience, the positive effects it has, seeing that the government of Puerto Rico is spent time and money in something that unfortunately does not make sense and where other states and countries invest that money in schools, in roads, in better services because I said: Puerto Rico can do it too. We are going to open the dialogue, we are going to insert ourselves into the 21st century, ″ said Ferrer Santiago.
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First published in Primera Hora a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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