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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Health chief supports decriminalization of drugs, doesn’t promote recreational cannabis usez

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López

By John McPhaul

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López said Thursday that although he does not believe in the recreational use of cannabis, he favors the decriminalization of all controlled substances.

Instead, he said that it is necessary to work with the user so that they stop using controlled substances and penalize those who sell them on the illegal market.

“As the secretary of Health I will always endorse medicine,” Mellado López said in response to questions from the press. “Medical cannabis is great. In other words, it is more than proven that it is an alternative, even in the face of the opioid crisis that exists worldwide, it has been seen that medical cannabis does not create a physiological dependence and helps for pain.”

“As for recreational [use], well, from my position as secretary of Health I would anticipate that I could not promote any medication that is used as recreational,” he added. “To give you an example, I would not sponsor you to take two Benadryl or two Xanax recreationally. And there, from that point of view, we are directed to the medical part and we are going to promote and work with cannabis from the medical point of view.”

Asked if he believes in the decriminalization of cannabis possession, Mellado López replied: “I do not believe that any person who uses a substance should be penalized.”

“Beyond that, we would have to go to the social part, we have to see why that person is using, because behind that misuse of the substance, there is a social environment and one does not penalize,” he said. “I believe in complete decriminalization.”

“Whoever sells it, that’s the one they have to put in jail,” Mellado López added. “You have to direct that support to the person who uses it and find a way for that person not to use that substance.”

The secretary made his statements in response to a bill introduced by at-large Popular Democratic Party Rep. Héctor Ferrer Santiago that would create the regulatory framework for the controlled adult use of cannabis in Puerto Rico.

The bill decriminalizes and regulates adult use, strengthens the mechanisms to reduce its reach among minors, and prohibits the act of smoking cannabis and its use in public places. It also addresses the regulation of the product under the same production, quality and sale framework as that of medical cannabis.

Ferrer Santiago said there is currently a study on the commercial impact of cannabis in Puerto Rico that estimates that sales from adult use of marijuana in the first year of legalization would net $522 million.

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