Lawmaker defends bill to decriminalize marijuana in Puerto Rico

San Juan, Apr 21 (EFE).- The bill introduced last week by governing Popular Democratic Party, or PPD, Sen. Miguel Pereira to decriminalize the use of marijuana has created a controversy in Puerto Rico.

The legislation introduced by Pereira would allow people 21 or older to possess up to 31 grams of pot for their personal use.

The bill would amend the Law on Controlled Substances, which imposes fines of $5,000 and up to three years in prison on anyone convicted of possessing the drug.

The bill acknowledges that there is a problem in Puerto Rico and redefines criminality linked to drug trafficking, the senator said.

Marijuana use is extremely high in Puerto Rico, where about 70 percent of university students consume the drug, while many professionals also use it, Pereira said.

"What this measure seeks to do is decriminalize possession for personal use and acknowledge what is happening in the country," Pereira said.

The legislation has come under attack from the most conservative sectors of Puerto Rican society.

The bill would harm the island's society and tarnish its image abroad, opposition New Progressive Party, or PNP, Senate Health Committee member Sen. Angel Martinez said.