Puerto Rico May Be On The Verge Of Cannabis Legalization
Some have suggested that the victory of opposition candidate Charlie Delgado could be the beginning of the end of efforts to legalize recreational cannabis in Puerto Rico in the wake of last week's presidential election. Both parties have been warming up for legalization in recent months, according to a recent report by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
Delgado won the race by a wide margin, receiving more than 80 percent of the vote, according to Puerto Rico's electoral commission.
The results so far suggest that the next governor of the island will be Pedro Pierluisi, who previously served as Puerto Rico's congressman. During his time in Congress, he worked with Democrats, but his main connections were with Republicans in the US House of Representatives and the state's governor's office.
At first glance, this government does not seem to bode well for the legalization of cannabis, but five or seven years in politics is a long time when it comes to the political process in Puerto Rico, especially in a country with a history of political corruption. In 2013 he made it clear that he was against the decriminalization of cannabis and in 2015 Pierluisi spoke out against the legalization of medical cannabis.
It is, therefore, possible that Pierluisi's views on cannabis have evolved since then, but not necessarily in favor of legalizing cannabis.
Right now, it's hard to imagine there could be any momentum for cannabis reform in the governor's seat. The legislature could have been different, however, and there are no signs of a change in public perception.
Although PIP has existed since 1946 and Puerto Rico's history has no record of legalizing cannabis except for a handful of cases in the 1950s and 1960s, former President Luis Lugaro Dalmau's newly represented party is open to legalizing cannabis, although his party will have more seats in both chambers than the PNP, and according to Dal mau can increase its congressional majority six-fold. But the PPD may need to work with another party to achieve a functioning majority, as a two-seat majority in each chamber will only have three seats.
Overall, the forces of the traditional PNP-PPD duopoly have achieved an unprecedented result in this year's elections. Pierluisi will surely be elected with a majority in the House of Representatives, compared to the 42% that former Governor Ricardo Rossello received in 2016, and Dalmau is not far behind, with third-party candidates winning 7%, indicating a growing desire for a third party in Puerto Rico's political system. Lugaro received more than 14% of the vote, but only a third of his party's candidates.
It is to be expected that Pierluisi will look for ways to counter this increase, but there could also be changes within the PNP. The party has campaigned for legalization, and the recent rise of the Party for Legalization, the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, has given pause to those who oppose measures to legalize recreational use.