#PuertoRico has taken an important step on the road to #economic recovery, with the approval by a federal judge of “the largest municipal #debt restructuring in #US history.” As the island looks for a fresh start, it should adopt a forward-thinking legal framework that allows it to harness the vast economic opportunities presented by #cannabis.
In 2015, Puerto Rico declared “it could not afford to #pay its more than $70 #billion public #debt load it had accumulated through decades of mismanagement, corruption and excessive borrowing.” With “no legal basis” in place “for a U.S. territory’s formal bankruptcy,” #Congress passed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) in 2016. Puerto Rico then entered a process that’s been described as “bankruptcy-like,” overseen by a federal judge in #NewYork. That process has now concluded, with Judge Laura Taylor Swain’s signoff on a plan “that slashes the U.S. territory’s public debt load as part of a restructuring and allows the government to start repaying creditors.” According to the island’s governor, this “represents a great step” for Puerto Rico’s economic recovery. The plan includes guardrails “to prevent a repeat” of the debt crisis. Furthermore, the debt restructuring’s approval is without doubt an important step for Puerto Rico, as it seeks renewed access to #capital markets, as well as to instill renewed confidence in the island’s economy. However, growth will not materialize out of thin air. Puerto Rico must develop economic strategies that are in line with its own realities, as well as those of the U.S. and global #markets. In this sense, going all-in on cannabis is a no-brainer, particularly with a view to expected liberalization at the federal level.
A robust program to incentivize cannabis cultivation would not only allow Puerto Rico to take advantage of its geographical location. It would also create opportunities in the island’s rural areas, where they are perhaps most sorely needed. Additionally, Puerto Rico is one of the most important biopharmaceutical manufacturing centers in the world, with pharma exports reaching $47 billion in 2019, according to the Department of Economic Development and Commerce. With such infrastructure at hand, the #island is well placed to become not just a #manufacturing hotbed for #medical cannabis products, but also an R&D hub for the industry.
Legal cannabis could also help extract more value from the cannabis use that is already taking place by locals. #Cannabis #tax #revenues would be a good way to help the Commonwealth meet its pensions obligations (estimated at $55 billion) and lastly, developing the cannabis industry at-large to complement existing legal frameworks for hemp and medical cannabis.