Puerto Rico Governor Decrees Medical Marijuana Legal

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - May 3, 2015, 10:30 pm
Governor Alejandro García Padilla says "studies support the use of [marijuana] to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis, HIV, glaucoma, Alzheimer, migraines, Parkinson's disease, and other illnesses." (<a href="" target="_blank">Park Ranger</a>)
Governor Alejandro García Padilla says “studies support the use of cannabis to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis, HIV, glaucoma, Alzheimer, migraines, Parkinson’s disease, and other illnesses.” (Park Ranger)

EspañolPuerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed an executive order on Sunday, May 3, to put an end to the prosecution of medical use of marijuana on the island. A press release issued by the governor’s office explained the decision by citing the use of cannabis for health purposes in other US jurisdictions.

Effective immediately, the order authorizes Commonwealth’s Health Department Secretary Ana Rius to allow the medical use of “some or all controlled substances or components of the cannabis plant.”

Padilla also commanded Rius to produce a report three months later, “detailing the efforts made in compliance with this order, and the results obtained and the work plan to follow.”

As a result of this move, marijuana will change its regulatory status from a prohibited controlled substance to medicine, and will be subject to taxation.

The governor recounted all the research highlighting the therapeutic uses of marijuana: “These studies support the use of cannabis to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis, HIV, glaucoma, Alzheimer, migraines, Parkinson’s disease, and other illnesses that often don’t respond to traditional treatment.” Padilla commented further that patients will enjoy renewed hopes and higher life expectancy.

Puerto Rico in a Tight Spot

The Commonwealth has been in a recession for the last eight years, amassing a crippling US$73 billion public debt in the process.

On Thursday, Puerto Rico’s legislature rejected a tax reform that would have increased the fiscal revenue necessary for the Padilla administration to deal with the crisis.

Governor Padilla responded that he would do anything within his reach to try to fix the island’s financial quagmire.

On Monday, the administration’s economic task force will meet with the governor to discuss the 2015-2016 budget, and how to cut US$1.5 billion in spending.

After learning the negative outcome of the vote on his tax reform, the governor also warned residents of the US territory that they “must be prepared,” because revenues will not keep up with the pace of government spending it needs to operate.

Puerto Rico now joins a long list of US states allowing medical marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington DC, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington.

Among the executive order’s critics is Luis Davila, a lawyer, commentator, and radio host in Puerto Rico who questions the fact that Padilla bypassed the Parliament.

“The legalization of marijuana is an inherent power of the legislature, not the executive.”

Hundreds of Puerto Ricans took to the streets on April 20 to demand the legalization of marijuana. The protest, led by Free Juana — a local cannabis-liberalization advocacy group seeking to get users out of jail — drew the support of politicians, including congressman Miguel Pereira.

“Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes, so no one should be punished for choosing it,” Free Juana commented. They lament that thousands of young people and regular citizens in more than 30 US states and countries are still being arrested over the mere consumption of cannabis.

Edited by Daniel Duarte and Fergus Hodgson.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.

Venezuela Leans On Gold Reserves for US$1 Billion Citibank Loan

By: Sabrina Martín - @SabrinaMartinR - May 3, 2015, 7:12 pm

EspañolOn Friday, April 24, the Venezuelan government secured a US$1 billion loan from Citibank, with 1.4 million troy ounces of Venezuelan gold as collateral. The gold swap will see Citibank provide the loan with interest rates of between 6 and 7 percent, according to experts close to the deal. The gold — equivalent to 3,500 gold bars, worth $1.7 billion at current prices — will be kept in the vaults of the Bank of England, and will be available to Citibank in case Venezuela fails to meet interest payments. The transaction illustrates Venezuela's worsening financial situation and follows increasing overtures by the Venezuelan government towards Wall Street, despite the stated enmity of the Miraflores Palace towards the White House. The arrival of President Nicolás Maduro to power in 2013 saw a reset in relations with international banks. Bank of America-Merrill Lynch has developed a relationship with the Venezuelan government via Francisco Rodríguez, the bank's chief economist for the Andean region, a former financial advisor to the National Assembly, and a close associate of the Venezuelan government. The New York office of Deutsche Bank has meanwhile been working with PDVSA in issuing bond allocations to Citgo, the state petroleum firm's sister company in the United States. Another example of Maduro's cooperation with US financial institutions is that of Goldman Sachs, whose brokerage department has bought the Dominican Republic's debt with Venezuela. The latest deal with Citibank comes as Venezuela's international reserves fell to their lowest level in 12 years amid multiple bond payments to overseas creditors and low petroleum prices. The latest data available from the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) on Monday, April 27, has reserves falling by around US$2 billion from $20.8 billion at the beginning of the month. The fall in reserves accompanies economic recession, high inflation, and worsening shortages of basic products. In 2011, former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez ordered the repatriation of Venezuelan gold held in the Bank of England in London. At the time, dissenting voices warned that the measure would be counterproductive, as the gold facilitated the country's financial transactions by acting as a guarantee. Dollars Wanted Venezuela, facing a severe shortage of dollars due to the global fall in petrol prices and government policies which have failed to encourage exports, is seeking alternatives to stabilize the country's political and economic panorama. On April 20, Maduro announced the receipt of a $5 billion loan from China, renewing financial agreements through which Venezuela has already received over $46 billion from the Asian giant in return for petroleum shipments. Maduro has meanwhile launched an aggressive campaign to obtain cash from abroad, seeking to sell petroleum shares in return for loans. One of the contemplated initiatives is the sale of PDVSA's stake in Dominican refinery Refidomsa, which would net the Venezuelan firm around $200 million. The purchase follows the Dominican Republic's cancellation on favorable terms of $4 billion it owed Venezuela for low-cost oil purchases, paying only $1.9 million to wipe out the debt. Poll Positions Since assuming power two years ago, Maduro's popularity has dramatically decreased amid the growing economic crisis facing the country. The Venezuelan government is set to unveil its electoral campaign ahead of legislative elections later in the year, and hopes through improving the country's economic situation to salvage minor victories from a dismal outlook in opinion polls. According to a survey published by polling firm Datanálisis on April 21, the government is set to lose the current majority it boasts in the National Assembly, winning only 25 percent of votes compared to 45 percent for the opposition. The polling data indicates that citizens of the South-American nation are becoming more aware of high-profile corruption cases involving government officials, including money-laundering via the Banca Privada D'Andorra. Venezuelans are also facing restrictive measures on access to foreign currency, a growing health crisis, and cuts and rationing to public services. Translated by Laurie Blair.

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