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Puerto Rico governor: DOJ marijuana decision shows 'lack of knowledge'

Puerto Rico governor: DOJ marijuana decision shows 'lack of knowledge'
© Camille Fine

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) panned the Department of Justice after Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGarland rescinds Trump-era memo curtailing consent decrees Biden picks vocal Trump critics to lead immigration agencies The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE ended a policy that allowed states and territories to regulate distribution of marijuana.

"This change constitutes a regression provoked by the lack of knowledge of what scientific evidence shows about the benefits of cannabis in the health of citizens who suffer from certain conditions," said Rosselló in a statement in Spanish.

Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, has a medicinal marijuana program that allows doctors to prescribe marijuana or its derivatives to patients with a wide range of diseases.

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Patients can obtain the plant legally from dozens of dispensaries throughout the territory.

Rosselló said Puerto Rico's medical cannabis program has helped 16,000 patients and has generated 30,000 jobs.

That makes cannabis one of the few growth industries in an island with 10.8 percent unemployment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The territory's gross domestic product has only grown one year in the last decade, and its medical system was buckling under funding shortages and an aging population even before hurricanes Maria and Irma ravaged the island in September.

Rosselló said his government would support measures to block Justice from using federal funds to enforce marijuana laws, and instructed his cabinet to join any legal challenge brought on against the new policy.

Sessions, a longtime opponent of marijuana legalization, rescinded Thursday an Obama-era memo written by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole that deprioritized federal prosecution of marijuana crimes.

The decision has been panned by lawmakers from both parties and was an apparent reversal of President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict MORE's position on the issue. During his presidential campaign, Trump said on marijuana legalization, "I am a states person. I think it should be up to the states.”