CANNABIS CULTURE – The medicinal cannabis industry in Puerto Rico has seen a rise after the recovery from two natural disasters last year. From dispensaries to manufacturing plants, the future keeps getting brighter for cannabis in the island.
We sat down with two Puerto Ricans, who are currently under medical cannabis treatment and in search of a better way of life.
Meet Christopher J. Peer, he’s a 34 year old resident of the capital city, San Juan. He has been a medical cannabis patient for three months. He tells us he was one of the very first to submit his medical recommendation on the island. For him it was a very arduous and long process. He submitted all his paperwork in 2016. “I had to wait 2 years to finally receive the medical card” Christopher told us. The delay was due to changes the young industry was going thru, including two natural disasters that left the island with the 2nd longest [power]blackout in record with 3.4 billion hours of power lost. Christopher shared some of his medical history which ranges from anxiety to post traumatic stress disorder. Since he’s started using cannabis, his panic attacks have receded and has become a more calm person. He also has a history of insomnia and the treatment has helped him to sleep comfortably.
His doctors recommended vaporization and honey oil extracts as the methods of consumption. His family has been very supportive of his alternative medicinal lifestyle. When asked what advice he has for anybody interested in cannabis as treatment, Christopher stated “Go for it. It’s only there for our benefit”.
On the other side of the coin, medical cannabis patients are still subject to the stigma of ignorance surrounding cannabis that has governed prohibition and delayed sick people’s right to get well. Case in point, we have a patient from San Juan as well who has chosen to remain anonymous. He explains that he doesn’t feel comfortable making his name known for several reasons, including repercussions in his current workplace.
This comes as a result of many cannabis patients being registered in the island and little education being provided to companies and employers about medical cannabis patients and the workplace, specially organizations that require a random drug testing.
Our anonymous patient is a 38 year old native from San Juan. In the interest of protecting his privacy we will refer to him as “patient X.” X is completely new to plant-based medicine and until recently, had never experienced cannabis. He has neuropathy and severe knee pain as a result of his condition. He first heard about medicinal cannabis from colleagues and friends but never thought of it as an option for himself. At the same time, X’s pain got worse.
“The pain became unbearable and it was affecting all aspects. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t let my wife sleep due to severe pain” he said during our interview.
Doctors increased the dosage of the opiates and patent pharmaceuticals X was prescribed, yet nothing helped relieve his pain. He was invited to a medical cannabis education event and learned that there was going to be a patient registration for medical cannabis.
The event was the largest ever patient registration on Puerto Rican soil. Qualifying patients gathered to receive their medical card, an anomaly as it would often take months for Puerto Rican patients to access a medical card via traditional bureaucratic routes.
This easy access was made possible by a collaboration between licensed doctors prescribing cannabis and Department of Health officials expeditinmg the medical cards.
“It took about 8 hours to get my medical cannabis patient card. At the time it seemed like a long time, but I learned I was one of the fortunate ones to be receiving the card on the same day as the process has taken months for other patients”, X explains.
The medical cannabis registration drive took place at the Mario Jiménez Coliseum in Guaynabo, from 8:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the afternoon. Inside of 10 hours, more than 1200 people received their medical cannabis cards. X told us he was very surprised to see the majority of people interested in the cards were elderly and not the young crowd he expected to be in attendance.
The doctors discussed every method of consumption available to assist in cannabis therapy. Edibles, lotions, oils and the flower itself were all hot topics among the gathered and curios. X’s favorite product is the lotion which he uses every night to help him sleep. He says the effects of cannabis in his life has been beyond positive. He sleeps through the night now, no longer waking his wife due to his chronic pain. X says, now pain-free, he has become far more productive at work as well.
We asked him about his family, if he has told them about being a medical cannabis patient. He told us an anecdote about his mother. “When I told her about my new medical cannabis treatment, she was incredibly supportive, which was completely unexpected as she has always been anti drug use of any kind. She was very supportive of my choice of medical cannabis as a treatment” he tells us. He also gives the cannabis industry in Puerto Rico some advice; “They need to continue to market and educate and create more events so more people know about the benefits of medical cannabis”. We asked him, what advice would he give people interested in an alternative such as medicinal cannabis, “Give it a shot. You have nothing to lose. Cannabis has been the only thing that has relieved my conditions and symptoms and never I expected this to be the solution” he commented.
As more education events are held, more patients are choosing cannabis as a their medical treatment. Patients are seen the results of how this flower has made a positive impact on their lives. Their stories are a testament of how they are attaining a better lifestyle in which they have found in cannabis. Now their future is healthier and greener.
Photos courtesy Latinas Cannapreneurs, Featured photo courtesy High Times