Puerto Rican senators have introduced a bill to expunge low-level marijuana possession convictions. He said he was inspired by President Joseph Biden’s announcement five days ago that he would pardon federal convictions for simple marijuana possession.
The Puerto Rican senator referred to Biden’s October 6 announcement that he would issue an executive order to pardon all federal convictions for simple marijuana possession. The presidential pardon will affect about 6,500 people convicted of marijuana possession under federal law, and thousands more in the District of Columbia. according to reports from new york timesBiden also asked governors to take similar action at the state level. At the state level, the majority of cannabis possession charges have been filed and prosecuted.
“As I often said during my presidential campaign, marijuana use or possession alone should not put people in jail. And it’s taking too many lives and imprisoning people.” Biden said in a statement October 6th. While whites, blacks, and browns use marijuana at similar rates, blacks and browns are disproportionately arrested, prosecuted, and convicted. ”
Vidot’s plan will decriminalize possession of up to 5 grams of cannabis. The senator said the amount would allow an estimate of personal use, but greater amounts would still be prohibited.
Puerto Rico’s harsh penalties for pot ownership
In Puerto Rico, any conviction of any amount of cannabis is considered a felony, punishable by two to four years in prison and fines of up to $5,000 for first offenses. Penalties for subsequent offenses were even harsher, and his time behind bars was extended from his four years to ten years. according to the information From the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform (NORML).
According to inmate population information from Puerto Rico’s Department of Corrections (DCR), 65% of inmates, or about 5,000 out of 7,000 people in prison, suffer from problematic substance abuse. The DCR report also reveals that about 8% of male and her 11% of female inmates began using drugs after entering the correctional system.
“Undoubtedly, these figures reflect the availability of substances within the country’s prison facilities,” Vidot said. “Thus, people who report that they were not drug users before being convicted start this process of consumption and addiction within the institution,” he said. “For those who were already battling the disease of drug addiction when they entered the penal system, the condition worsens in it.”
Following Biden’s announcement, Puerto Rico’s Gov. Pedro Pierluigi Urrutia said he would not follow the example set by the president’s executive order pardoning marijuana possession convictions, saying the DCR’s record was for marijuana possession. However, Vidot countered that the agency’s records did not contain enough information to make that decision.
“The governor has already said he lacks the will and courage to take a significant step for justice and will not give way to an executive order,” Vidot said. “Simply knowing how many inmates have marijuana is statistically impossible because when they arrive at the correctional facility, they tell them the law they’ve broken, not the specific drug.” is who will have the courage to join me and make way for this in Puerto Rico.
In 2018, public health expert Vidot introduced Bill 912 into the Senate to decriminalize possession of all controlled substances. The new bill specifically focuses on cannabis possession, but senators said they want the Puerto Rican government to eliminate all penalties for drug possession.
“While the goal should be the decriminalization of all drugs, this proposal would advance the decriminalization of cannabis or marijuana and move in that direction, as several forward-thinking jurisdictions have already succeeded. take the first step,” he said.