The decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in Puerto Rico will have to wait after the island's House of Representatives did not discuss a bill already passed by the Senate on its last working day for approving measures during the current legislative session.

The controversial measure, which is being sponsored by Sen. Miguel Pereira of the ruling Popular Democratic Party, or PPD, will not be approved until January in the lower house, after which it will go to Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla's desk for his signature before becoming law.

House speaker Jaime Perello, a PPD member, said he did not know what the opinion of his delegation regarding the decriminalization of pot for personal consumption was.

The bill sets forth that possession of up to 14 grams (1/2 ounce) of pot would not constitute a crime and would be considered only a violation that would carry a maximum fine of $100, with penalties of $200 for a second offense and $300 for a third offense.

If a person were found to be in possession of between 14 and 28 grams (1/2 ounce to 1 ounce) of pot, they could be punished with a maximum fine of $500 and six months in prison, but possessing more than 28 grams would be a serious crime that could be punished with the current penalty of three years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

The bill still has not been debated in the House either privately or publicly among lawmakers, Perello said.

The legislation will be forwarded to the appropriate House committee for study, but that will only occur starting in January, Perello went on to say.

Garcia Padilla last Friday said he welcomed the debate on reducing the penalties for possession of small amounts of pot, although he said that he will wait for the House to decide on the bill that has already been approved in the Senate.

The Senate-approved text states specifically that the intention is not to legalize either the possession or consumption of marijuana, but rather to change the current punitive focus against consumers. EFE