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U.S. Virgin Islands Legalizes Cannabis

The U.S. Virgin Islands this week passed legislation to legalize cannabis for adults, bringing the number of states and territories in the United States that have legalized recreational marijuana to 25. Governor Albert Bryan Jr. signed the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act (Act 8680) on Wednesday, legalizing marijuana use by adults for medicinal, sacramental and other uses.

“From the beginning of the Bryan-Roach Administration, we have worked towards the legalization of the adult use of cannabis, and today, with the hard work of the members of the 34th Legislature and prior Legislatures and the efforts of my team, we are finally here and finally signing into law the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act,” the governor said in a statement. “This Act incorporates key aspects of my original proposal, such as one streamlined regulatory scheme for both medicinal and adult use, enforcement powers for the Office of Cannabis Regulation, entrepreneurship and job opportunities for Virgin Islands residents, and the creation of a revenue stream to help fund critical Government initiatives and operations.”

Legislation Passed By Senate Late Last Year

The legislation, which was passed by the U.S. Virgin Islands Senate on December 30 by an 11-1 veto-proof majority, also regulates commercial cannabis activity. In addition to the cannabis legalization measure, Bryan also signed separated legislation that provides for the expungement of past marijuana offenses. The governor of the Caribbean island territory also issued a proclamation that allows persons convicted of simple possession of marijuana to apply for a pardon through the Virgin Islands Department of Justice.

Bryan noted that the governor’s office and other government agencies would use funding provided by the legislature to “work towards the automatic expungement of the simple possession of marijuana to those who are eligible and provide entrepreneurship and job training to the community to those who seek a role in this new industry.”

“Today, I proclaim that all criminal convictions for the simple possession of marijuana under the Virgin Islands Code are fully and completely pardoned,” Bryan said. “My office estimates that approximately 300 individuals have been convicted of the simple possession of marijuana in the last 20 years.”

Following the passage of the Cannabis Use Act in the closing days of 2022, Senator Janelle K. Sarauw, the sponsor of the cannabis legalization bill, said that the legislation was a collaborative effort by advocates who overcame opposition to comprehensive cannabis policy reform.

“Although there have been many politically driven false narratives about this cannabis legislation, I am proud of the work done by the Senators of the 34th Legislature, community stakeholders and advocates, all of who contributed to the structuring of the final bill voted upon in today’s Session,” Sarauw said in a press release posted to Facebook on December 30. “The body did its due diligence in protecting the masses and the best interest of our residents by ensuring that locals and minorities are not locked out of industry and have any opportunity to participate in its economic potential.”

Virgin Islands Cannabis Legalization Offers Economic Opportunity

The Cannabis Use Act also includes provisions to regulate the production, distribution and sales of cannabis. At a signing ceremony for the legislation on Wednesday, Bryan thanked Senator Donna Frett-Gregory, the president of the 34th Legislature, for bringing key stakeholders together to travel to Denver to learn about the cannabis industry firsthand.

“By traveling to Denver and meeting and speaking with individuals involved in all aspects of the industry from regulators, to law enforcement officers, to cultivators, manufacturers and dispensary owners, it is my hope that the individuals involved with the roll-out of this industry have learned best practices and what to avoid as we work to create this industry in the Virgin Islands,” he said.

The governor also noted that the legalization of cannabis in the U.S. Virgin Islands will provide residents with economic opportunities and will present the territorial government with a new source of revenue from cannabis taxes. He urged all Virgin Islanders to take advantage of the opportunities available under the legislation.

“We are bringing the opportunities to you, but you must also do your part to seize these opportunities. It is my goal to make sure many of us who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis are afforded every opportunity to participate in this new and legal cannabis industry,” Bryan said.

With the passage of the Cannabis Act, 21 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands have legalized the use of marijuana for adults, bringing the total number of states and territories that have legalized cannabis in the United States to 25.

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