By / July 25, 2020

Puerto Rico is facing a cannabis crisis due to the pandemic

Closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which is wreaking havoc all around the world creating an unprecedented economic crisis, have had an effect on the sale and recovery of medical cannabis, according to the latest statistics published by Puerto Rico’s Treasury Department.

The most significant decline was reported in May’s collections. According to these numbers, total cannabis sales that month were only around $6 million, and the sector produced $380,000 in tax collections. An alarming number, as this amount is almost half of what the cannabis industry managed to sell and collect between February and April. 

The numbers pale in comparison, even more, when put side by side with the data from January, when sales were almost $12 million, while collections reached $1.2 million.

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The curfew imposed due the coronavirus pandemic is the main culprit of the cannabis crisis

So far this year, medical cannabis sales are at $51 million, while sales and use tax (VAT) collections have so far been about $4.4 million. Last year, UVI receipts from cannabis sales reached $14 million, the highest number since medical sales were legalized in 2017.

Shadiff Repullo, a lawyer and activist in favor of the decriminalization of cannabis, attributed the reduction in sales of cannabis-based products to the curfew restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited the number of customers that go out to buy these products. Although the first curfew began in mid-March, she said the effect was seen months later with the new restrictions, as the pandemic continues to accelerate.

“We understand that’s because of COVID-19. In May, we saw the effects of those restrictions which, at first, were a few and by May they were more,” he said.

Puerto Rico has been registering a steady increase in the medical cannabis market

Denise Maldonado, executive director of the Health Department’s Office of Medical Cannabis in Puerto Rico, acknowledged that licenses for the use of medical cannabis for patients in the country, as well as for clinics and doctors who are interested in prescribing it legally, have been increasing.

According to the governmental agency, there are 394 doctors who prescribe cannabis on the island, 92,000 patients who consume to treat specific illnesses, and 176 dispensaries who market it to those who can acquire it legally. Furthermore, there are also 38 registered crops of cannabis.

Maldonado denied that there are plans to close the licensing process for opening clinics due to the pandemic, as the agency plans to continue giving those permits to those who need medical cannabis.

“I know that there is a rumor that they are going to close the calls and I have to say that this rumor, to this day, is false. What did happen is that there was a bill in the House that said they were going to close calls to do a market study and then reopen it, but that bill was not approved,” he said.


(Featured image by Macau Photo Agency via Unsplash)

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