By / February 15, 2024

U.S. Virgin Islands Make Strides in Cannabis Legalization

After experiencing delays and obstacles, the U.S. Virgin Islands are accelerating the deployment of their cannabis legalization. A recent decision by the advisory council on the future regulation of the cannabis industry in the archipelago marks a key step in the implementation of legalization.

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U.S. Virgin Islands Addressing Past Injustices

Catherine Kean, chair of the advisory council, expressed the collective sentiment of many residents by stating, “We have been waiting for this for a very long time.”

The commission has committed to facilitating the expungement of criminal records for individuals convicted of simple cannabis possession. Positive Nelson, a member of the council, highlighted the importance of this initiative, noting that about 300 people in the U.S. Virgin Islands have been convicted for this type of offense. By addressing these inequalities, the territory aims to give affected individuals the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

A central element of the legislation is the equitable distribution of tax revenues generated from cannabis sales. A minimum tax of 18% will apply to dispensary sales, and allocations will be made to behavioral health programs, initiatives to combat homelessness, and youth services. These measures underscore the territory’s commitment to leveraging cannabis revenues for the benefit of society.

Focus on Patient Well-being

In the midst of legislative discussions, the board continues to focus on patient well-being. In response to concerns raised by Positive Nelson, a board member, plans for digital identification cards ensure convenient access for patients using cannabis for medical purposes.

Regulatory Frameworks and Procedures

Besides regulatory frameworks, the council is streamlining procedures related to the use of cannabis for medical and sacramental purposes. Hannah Carty, the executive director of the council, presented plans for a registration system that will ensure access for eligible individuals – religious organizations and medical practitioners – by April.

However, the implementation timeline continues to pose problems. Ms. Carty acknowledged the existence of external factors beyond the commission’s control, indicating potential delays in granting licenses for cultivation and processing operations. Despite these obstacles, the commission remains determined to advance cannabis legislation in the territory.

Reflecting Broader Caribbean Trends

The legalization of recreational cannabis in the U.S. Virgin Islands reflects broader trends observed in the Caribbean region. From Antigua to Jamaica and the Bahamas, these countries are reevaluating their cannabis laws, recognizing the potential for economic growth and social reform.

Celebrating these advancements, council members expressed optimism for the future. Richard Evangelista aptly described the momentum by stating, “The train is ready to leave the station. All passengers are on board.”

(Featured image by IslandHopper X via Pexels)

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