Nearly two years ago, Puerto Rico legalized medical cannabis by decree, and last month new Governor Ricardo Rossello signed a measure that set up the framework of this growing industry. It is the hope of Puerto Ricans across the territory that cannabis will be able to stimulate their ailing economy by bringing in millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs. Backers of legalization say that this will lead to an expansion of cannabis growing fields, manufacturing centers and dispensaries. That spells out a lot of job openings.

Attorney and President of Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana Goodwin Aldarondo stated that “legal cannabis is the only viable alternative we have to solve the economic situation. It’s been many, many years since Puerto Rico has had a new industry.” The treasury secretary of the island has stated that legal medical cannabis can bring in as much as $100 million annually, including sales and use taxes.

Things have not been great, economically, in Puerto Rico. The unemployment rate is consistently around 12%, there have been budget cuts to the tune of billions of dollars and the public debt load is over $70 million. More and more island residents are moving to the United States for better opportunities because of the economic hardship that has stricken the territory.

For those who see cannabis’ potential as a real economic force, optimism drives their actions. They have heard of how other US states have legalized cannabis to some degree, and the massive success that legalization has become in terms of tax revenue and job generation.

While the potential for economic growth certainly cannot be overstated, many people are less concerned with revenue generation than they are with helping those who are suffering. In Puerto Rico 9,000 people pay $25 a year to use medical cannabis as a means of treating one or more of fourteen pre-approved ailments. Some of the conditions that can be treated with medical cannabis in Puerto Rico are HIV/AIDS, cancer, anxiety and epilepsy.