Will Legalizing Medical Marijuana Help Puerto Rico Keep the Lights On?

The governor of Puerto Rico cares about your health, and wants you to be able to smoke weed if you think it would better your quality of life. This weekend will be the first weekend in Puerto Rico’s history where people suffering from glaucoma or migraines can enrolar un palo to puff their pain away.

In an official executive gubernatorial order on Sunday, the honorable Alejandro Garcia Padilla, shouted out the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Nuevo México, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island y Washington and even the District of Colombia for legalizing the use of marijuana in one form or another. Then he took it to the next level. In a surprising turn of events, the governor ushered Puerto Rico into the 21st century with an order that caused as much surprise as his recent backtracking on their defense of the marriage equality ban last month.

The order to legalize medical marijuana, which can be read here, directs Department of Health Secretary Dr. Ana Rius to authorize the medicinal use of some or all of the controlled substances and derived components of the cannabis plant. Which pretty much means you can eat a pot brownie or smoke some hash oil without worrying that the cops will take your medicine away.

The Secretary has three months to come up with a plan, so it hasn’t yet been determined if you’ll need a card like in Cali, or if you can rent out a warehouse and grow hectares of indoor Sour Diesel like you can in Colorado. But one thing is for sure, sports and politics just got a lot more interesting to talk about—assuming you suffer from Parkinsons, or any other ailment that doesn’t often respond to traditional treatments.

Or perhaps the governor is trying to relieve the suffering of Puerto Rico’s legislature with the promise of a new tax on marijuana that could go a long way toward stopping the country’s bond rating from slipping any lower. Its electric company is practically bankrupt. Could pot help keep the lights on? Colorado’s roughly $40 million in tax revenue might look a little bit like a plate full of fiscal munchies.

Not to mention the millions that might be saved from not enforcing pot related crimes. Maybe Garcia Padilla hopes legalizing the cripi will cut down on opportunities for corruption. Veremos. But if the executive order doesn’t pave the way to a concrete bill, this will all remain speculation.

The gobe, however, may be thinking in completely different terms, using the measure to send a message to the increasing number of Puerto Ricans leaving the island. He might very well be aiming to alleviate the pain of living in poverty or making ends meet without a job. Unemployment is too high, young people are leaving in droves.

A stylish musician and self-proclaimed technological shaman, Arnaldo Capo, left Puerto Rico a few years ago and found way better work in New York City where he now lives. He says, “Puerto Rico is all reggaeton. People want to go other places, and the places they visit will likely be better. Here you can have a life, you don’t have to struggle.”

But, he says, legalizing marijuana will help. It will bring people of different levels of education and class together. “It’s going to create new paths.”

New paths for revenue, new paths for pain relief, and maybe even a few new jobs. It may bring people together, break down long held stereotypes and old prejudices. It will certainly make conversations about the Nationals and statehood seem oh so much more interesting. And that’s a good thing.