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Legalized Prostitution and Marijuana in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico’s financial crisis continues, and many of the suggestions being made by the governor’s economic panel may not be realistic. (Read more about the proposals involving the U.S. government and those involving mega-retailers.) Action has been taken to bolster industries like aeronautics, IT, and tourism, and these efforts may help.

Other proposals are more questionable. The government of Puerto Rico invited ideas from the people, and their crowdsourcing brought the idea of legalizing marijuana and prostitution in Puerto Rico to the fore. Some news sources have reported that these options are being considered by the Government, though the seriousness with which it is being discussed is not clear.

“Sex tourism” is a reality in some Caribbean destinations, including the Dominican Republic, where prostitution is legal. There, authorities estimate that there are 100,000 sex workers, 12.5% of whom are HIV positive. The International Commission on Human Rights has expressed concern about child prostitution, urging the Government of the Dominican Republic to take action to protect minors so that they not fall victim to the violence associated with prostitution and illegal trafficking.

Puerto Rico, because its position as a territory of the United States makes it an appealing conduit for the drug trade, already has a level of  drug-related violence far greater than that found in any state.  (Read more from our archives here.)

Meanwhile, established and respected U.S. economic policies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which have been proven to help low income families and children throughout the country, have not been extended to Puerto Rico.  (See our previous stories about how these refundable tax credits help families afford college, leverage the minimum wage, improve children’s school performance, and enhance productivity and earnings into adulthood.)

Many proponents of statehood for Puerto Rico claim that they seek equal rights and equal responsibilities with the rest of the United States – not special rights or entitlements.  The EITC/CTC vs. prostitution and marijuana legalization dichotomy may provide a case study.   The denial of the federal EITC and CTC for the low income workers in Puerto Rico is a point of inequality.  The legalization of marijuana and prostitution, on the other hand, is a unique alternative being proposed to compensate for a weak Puerto Rican economy – a weak economy that, according to proven studies, would be helped by access to the EITC and CTC in the first place.



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