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Puerto Rico considers legalizing marijuana and prostitution to jumpstart economy

Published time: April 21, 2014 20:14
Edited time: April 23, 2014 13:26
The Capitol House in San Juan (Reuters/Ana Martinez)

The Capitol House in San Juan (Reuters/Ana Martinez)

​After suffering eight years of recession, Puerto Rico is contemplating more than a hundred different proposals intended to jumpstart its sagging economy – including legal prostitution and marijuana use.

After suffering eight years of recession, Puerto Rico is contemplating more than a hundred different proposals intended to jumpstart its sagging economy – including legal prostitution and marijuana use.

Considering the commonwealth’s dire situation – according to Fusion.net, unemployment is at 15 percent, while 45 percent of the population is living in poverty – lawmakers have been accepting proposals from all comers, including the general public.

Nearly 370 different ideas to dig the government out of $70 billion in debt were submitted, and lawmakers have picked out 156 of them for further consideration. According to the Associated Press, the proposals range from eliminating various government agencies to cutting down the number of public holidays.

As for legalizing prostitution and marijuana, the government committee in charge of considering the proposals will also be taking a look at both of these options.

“We are studying all alternatives and all possibilities,” Sen. Maria Teresa Gonzalez said to the AP. “Change always brings inconvenience. I’m convinced that before we talk about something as dramatic and disastrous as layoffs, we have to consider other ideas.”

Whether or not the government will actually move forward with such action is up in the air, as doing so would require public hearings, approval by the commonwealth’s legislative branch, and the support of Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla.

In addition to sanctioning prostitution and marijuana, Gonzalez’s party has proposed cutting the number of public holidays from 20 to six, claiming that such a move would save $500 million a year.

Others, such as Rep. Ricardo Llerandi Cruz, have suggested doing away with 41 government agencies, some of which he claims are redundant. He stated his proposal would save $160 million just in administrative costs.

"Puerto Rico is facing the worst fiscal crisis in all of its history," Cruz said to the AP. "We need to refocus or revisit governmental priorities to face these problems."

Shrinking Puerto Rico’s debt has become the central goal for Gov. Padilla, who has assured investors and credit agencies that he’ll reduce a deficit of $820 million. Exactly how this will happen remains unclear, however, leaving some residents concerned the government will ignore the public’s proposals and resort to raising taxes, laying people off, and cutting public services.

Unconvinced that positive changes will occur, 450,000 Puerto Ricans have decided to pack up and move to the mainland United States as a result.

"It is very difficult to change the inertia of this island," attorney Manuel Lugo told the AP. "There has been no economic plan for decades. What they do here is repair and patch holes. That's not how you run a country.”