Puerto Rico’s fledgling legal marijuana industry is struggling to recover as the devastation delivered by Hurricane Maria may have cost the island trade millions of dollars in damage.
Its government legalized medical marijuana at the end of December, and the American territory had only just gotten its sea legs in the competitive industry when Hurricane Maria crippled what could have been a potential economic savior for an island $74 billion in debt.
“Big manufacturing and grow facilities have had their roof blown off, there is water in their manufacturing rooms, equipment damaged, no light for plants and most are dead,” said Goodwin Aldarondo, the president and CEO of Puerto Rico Legal Marijuana.
“You’re talking about millions of dollars of damage and we just started as an industry,” he added.
Hurricane Maria swept across the island on Sept. 20, causing widespread damage and flooding. At least 44 people died either directly or indirectly from the storm, officials said. High winds and a deluge of rain crippled key infrastructure, destroyed homes and devastated businesses across the island.
The Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Association is currently assessing the cost of the damage for the industry’s insurers — a particularly integral calculation as the medical marijuana community does not qualify for federal aid because of legal restrictions. And its importance is particularly stark, as medical marijuana grew to be a symbol of the potential for economic prosperity for cash-strapped Puerto Rico. [Read more at NBC News]