Puerto Rico is the largest of America’s unincorporated territories, and medicinal marijuana is legal on the island. Like many American states, Puerto Rico has a colorful cannabis history. It was banned in 1932 and remained illegal for over 80 years. Jose Baez proposed decriminalization in 2013, but at that time, an estimated 70% of residents were against it.
However, Governor Padilla signed an executive order which made medicinal marijuana legal in Puerto Rico in 2015. In September 2017, the island was rocked by the devastation of Hurricane Maria which claimed 3,000 lives. Puerto Rico’s weed industry, which was just getting off the ground, was crippled but it is finally making headway.
As of September 2018, there were approximately 54 dispensaries and 36 other ‘canna-businesses’ operating on the island. It is estimated that there are approximately 50,000 registered medical marijuana patients. If you wish to be part of this group, keep reading our guide which explains how you get an MMJ card in Puerto Rico.
The Definitive Guide on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Puerto Rico
If you are familiar with the process of getting an MMJ card in any American state, this guide may come as a surprise to you. As you can guess, it is a step-by-step process, but it is not as straightforward as it is in the United States. In PR, the Medicinal Cannabis Regulatory Board (MCRB), a body that oversees the use, growth, production, and distribution of medical marijuana was established by the Medical Cannabis Act.
The country’s medical marijuana law is known as Regulation No. 8766 which was signed by Governor Ricardo Rosello in July 2016 and contained the initial legislation. There has been a recent update named Regulation No. 9038 which has made a few changes to the law. For example, a majority (51%+) of marijuana must be locally sourced.
Step 1 – Make Sure You Are Eligible & Make an Appointment with a Physician
PR residents and medical tourists are potentially eligible as long as they have one of the qualifying medical conditions which we outline below. Next, you must schedule an appointment with an MCRB registered physician.
Step 2 – Visit the MCRB
Once the doctor has confirmed your eligibility, you must complete the application and forms found on the official MCRB Website. Here’s the kicker: At the time of writing, you have to go to the MCRB office in-person to hand in your documents. Make sure you have a photo ID, proof of address, and any other information required on the application.
According to Puerto Rico law, you also need to complete a formulary from the Department of Health of Puerto Rico, which must include a certification from a notary public or a lawyer.
Step 3 – Play the Waiting Game
After finishing your paperwork and handing it in, you must wait for the license to arrive in the mail. You need to contact the PR Health Department if your sealed packet doesn’t arrive within two months (it normally takes 4-6 weeks). It is also possible to go back to the MCRB to obtain the MMJ card.
Step 4 – Buy Your Weed
When you have your MMJ card, you must now choose one of the dispensaries from where you will obtain all of your cannabis. If you are a medical tourist and have an MMJ card, you can also visit the MCRB and pay the application fee to enable you to use a medical marijuana dispensary on the island.
It is a cumbersome method of getting medical marijuana. It seemed likely that these early bugs would be fixed but Hurricane Maria ruined everything, and like other industries on the island, marijuana has to begin again.
Today, you can apply online on the MCRB website which is in Spanish.
What Are the Qualifying Conditions Required to Receive Medical Marijuana in Puerto Rico
There is a lengthy list of potential qualifying conditions including:
- Crohn’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Hepatitis C
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Spinal Cord Injury
If you have a condition that isn’t on the list, get in touch with a physician and see if you are eligible.
What Are the Costs of Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Puerto Rico?
All applications must pay a $25 application fee which is made out to the Secretary of Hacienda in Puerto Rico. There is no refund if you are not approved. The physician is likely to charge anywhere from $50 to $100, and if you have your medical recommendation certified by a notary or lawyer, it will also cost around $35. There is also a one-time annual visit fee of $75 as weed is not covered by health insurance.
Other Important Information on the Puerto Rico Medical Marijuana Licensing Process
Are There Restrictions?
- You must be a resident of PR and aged 21+. However, medical tourists with an MMJ card from their home state are permitted to use it in reciprocity while visiting Puerto Rico.
- If you are aged 18-20, you need medical marijuana recommendations from a minimum of two MCRB approved physicians, and also have the assistance of a parent or legal guardian who must register in the program with you.
- Personal cultivation is prohibited.
- The dispensary you choose is the only place you are legally allowed to purchase medical marijuana. This is an issue if you are traveling to a different part of the island. It is believed that the government will eventually change this stipulation.
- You are allowed a 30-day supply when you visit your dispensary.
- You are allowed a maximum daily supply of 1.5 ounces of medicine.
- Medical marijuana is only for use privately in your home.
- You must submit a renewal application in-person to the MCRB at least 30 days before your card expires.
- Smoking marijuana is not allowed. You can use pills, tinctures, patches, edibles, topicals, and vaporizers.
As recreational use is still illegal, you will get into serious trouble if caught in possession of marijuana without an MMJ card. It is imperative that you bring it with you if you have weed or else you risk arrest. Possession of any amount could result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a $5,000 fine. Illegal sale or cultivation carries a fine of up to $20,000 and 12 years in prison.
Doctors who wish to become MCRB certified must apply to the board and meet the following criteria:
- They must have a valid medical license, along with a license to prescribe controlled substances.
- They must be in possession of a Department of Health certificate which confirms that they have received the appropriate training on the use of medicinal marijuana.
- There is also an additional fee.
The initial method of receiving your MMJ card, visiting the MCRB in person, has been criticized for its inconvenience. Moreover, you had to visit San Juan regardless of where you live on the island. Also, being approved for marijuana is incredibly difficult. Most certified physicians will not approve you for flower which means you have to go to the Fundación Free Juana offices in San Juan.
There, you will be asked a series of tough questions by physicians to decide if you should be allowed flower. It is a time-consuming process and not every patient has the opportunity to travel to San Juan.
Fortunately, some companies offer a much faster process. They enable you to apply online and receive an evaluation with nothing more than a valid government ID or passport.
Once you are approved, your medical recommendation will get emailed immediately. If you are a medical tourist, you still need to pick up your card at the offices of the Health Department. NuggMD is set to offer fast and convenient MMJ card evaluations to Puerto Rico residents in the near future.