GSRX Industries (OTCQB: GSRX) is building a 5,000 sq. ft. marijuana dispensary in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, home to the largest marina in the Caribbean.
Puerto del Rey in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, serves as a launching port for trips to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and it is a popular tourist destination in its own right. Fajardo is blessed with a bioluminescent lagoon, allowing for nightly kayak trips, and its calm, clear waters are ideal for snorkelling.
This oceanside community will now house Puerto Rico’s fifth medicinal cannabis dispensary and retail operations can begin immediately. GSRX Industries already operates the other four dispensaries on the island, with locations in Dorado, Carolina, and two in San Juan, and it has licenses to cultivate cannabis and offer home delivery services to Puerto Ricans.
It is interesting to see the cannabis industry gathering pace in a U.S.-controlled Caribbean island. The U.S. federal government has continued to uphold a ban on cannabis, despite several states legalizing it for recreational and/or medicinal purposes.
Banks in several Caribbean countries have corresponding banks in the U.S. and they are federally regulated, so they could end that partnership if the Caribbean bank engages in any activity that is illegal under U.S. federal law.
That means several banks in countries like Jamaica will not touch the cannabis industry, leaving nations reluctant to legalize and scale up licensed marijuana cultivation, and stymying potential growth across the Caribbean. Yet the cannabis industry is flourishing in Puerto Rico, which lies in the heart of the region and is an unincorporated territory of the U.S.
The big challenge for lawmakers across the Caribbean is to put an end to the classification that sees earnings from legal marijuana businesses qualifying as “proceeds from crime” under U.S. federal law. This has troubled politicians in Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and other countries, which all hope to attract investment in marijuana and boost their coffers by rolling out a legalized cultivation industry.
Banks and lawmakers in the Caribbean cannot afford to miss out on the emerging global marijuana business, and in 2019 they are expected to lobby the U.S. for more sensible banking laws. They could point to developments in Puerto Rico to assist them in these lobbying efforts.
This is also a challenge for businesses across the U.S., where legal, hardworking commercial operators struggle to find banks that will work with them. They are also piling pressure on the federal government to change its laws, arguing that a failure to do so will hand control of the fast-growing marijuana industry to Canada, so this will be an interesting issue to watch in the year ahead.
Correction: Jan. 4, 2018
The article originally stated that the dispensary will be built in the marina, but has been corrected to reflect that the dispensary is being built in Fajardo, which is where the marina is located.