According to the latest data, it also hurt the U.S. territory’s medical marijuana industry by destroying equipment and facilities crucial to the survival of the cannabis plants.
Although still in its beginning stages, Puerto Rico’s medical marijuana industry is also struggling to recover from effects of Hurricane Maria. Maria tore through the island of Puerto Rico during mid-September bringing down homes and businesses, damaging supplies and killing nearly 50 people.
Only last year was a medical marijuana program passed by officials in Puerto Rico. The CEO of Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana, Goodwin Aldarondo, stated, “big manufacturing and grow facilities have had their roof blown off, there is water in their manufacturing rooms, equipment damaged, no light for plants and most are dead.”
Aldarondo added, “You’re talking about millions of dollars of damage, and we just started as an industry”.
It has been suggested that the medical marijuana industry can assist the island out of the $74 billion in debt. This did not include the damages because of the hurricane. Full damage to the industry has not been estimated as they are working on establishing the numbers.
Since the federal government does not classify medical marijuana as a lawful business these companies will not meet requirements to obtain federal assistance to rebuild. The only optimism medical marijuana companies can have is that insurance companies will compensate their claims.
Ingrid Schmidt stated, “The longer the industry is out of commission, the more the entire island will suffer”. Schmitt is president of the Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Association.
“We were expecting a lot from this industry,” Schmidt said. “It’s the only industry that was creating jobs, and a lot of hope was put into this industry because it was critical to the financial circumstance that our island is going through.”
A small number of medical marijuana companies have reopened and an even smaller number are able to dispense the product to patients. In the beginning of October, regulations changed giving registered patients the ability to obtain marijuana products from any dispensary that has a product to sell because of Maria.
President Donald Trump recently vowed to help the U.S. territory through this time of crisis for as long as it will take, but has gone back on that vow saying that federal government cannot help “forever.”