HEMP flower for sale in Virgin Islands
HEMP flower for sale in Virgin Islands
U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. has given a new medical marijuana law his stamp of
approval, making the territory the latest Caribbean jurisdiction to open its doors to cannabis
businesses and potential new tourism opportunities.
The move has been years in the making, with voters having favored medical cannabis in a 2014
Read the U.S. Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act here.
In addition to the U.S. Virgin Islands, other U.S. territories that have approved MMJ include
Guam and Puerto Rico.
An Office of Cannabis Regulation (OCR) will be established within the U.S. Virgin Islands’
Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs.
The OCR will publish rules within four months, and the issuance of licenses will start three
months after that.
The law, known as the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act (MCPCA), will also create a new
medical cannabis tourism industry by allowing patients from states and countries with regulated
markets to access Virgin Islands medical cannabis for a fee and, according to the statute, “allow
non-cannabis patients worldwide to visit the Virgin Islands and receive cannabis therapy as part
of an in-patient program.”
Three classes of cultivation will be allowed:
Patients and caregivers will be permitted to grow a small quantity for personal use.
“Family farms” will be allowed to cultivate up to 100 plants.
Larger commercial grow operations will be allowed to grow up to 1,000 plants.
The MCPCA will be tasked with regulating the medical cannabis industry by providing online
“seed-to-sale” oversight, according to the law.
Licenses will be provided for MMJ product manufacturing facilities to process cannabis through
extraction and infusing the extracts into goods that could act as a smokeless alternative for
Patients will be required to receive a medical cannabis recommendation from a health-care
On Jan. 19, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. of the U.S. Virgin Islands signed a new law that will make
medicinal cannabis accessible to qualified patients in the U.S. territory.
“I have approved the Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Care Act because it is a step in the right
direction toward assisting Virgin Islanders suffering from autoimmune and other debilitating
medical conditions,” Bryan said in a statement, according to the local St. John Source.
The Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act establishes guidelines for regulated use
and the licensing of dispensaries throughout the territory. Patients suffering from a list of serious
ailments including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain will be able to
receive a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana. Qualifying residents will be able to
possess up to four ounces, with possession for non-residents capped at three ounces. A special
permit will be needed for home cultivation of up to 12 plants.
As The Source elaborates, the bill creates a nine-member Cannabis Advisory Board, appointed
by the governor and an Office of Cannabis Regulation, as its regulatory arm. Commercial
licensees will be able to grow up to 1,000 plants. To prevent monopolies, cultivators will not also
be able to own dispensaries. Revenue from sales will be used to fund drug rehabilitation and job
training programs, tourism and agricultural projects and infrastructure.
Fruits of an Activist Campaign
In signing the bill, Bryan said the legislation gives effect to a 2014 referendum in which a
majority of Virgin Islands voters approved the idea of a medical marijuana law. “Since the
referendum, it is clear that marijuana-use policy in the United States has been changing rapidly
in favor of medicinal and recreational use and will continue, even potentially on the federal
level,” Bryan said.
The non-binding ballot question was approved by 56 percent of voters in November 2014,
signaling majority support. A bill to legalize medicinal marijuana in the territory soundly
passed the territory’s bicameral legislature on Dec. 28 of last year. The passage came after the
legislature heard much testimony from advocates on the medical, economic and agricultural
benefits of cannabis.
Barbara LaRonde of USVI NORML, who sat in Senate chambers all that day, was elated by the
passage. “There’s so many emotions bubbling inside,” she told The Source after the vote. “I
want to jump with joy. I’m thinking, ‘What’s the next step?’ It’s been a long trial to finally get to
LaRonde said she hopes to eventually explore the possibility of allowing cannabis for
sacramental use. “We do have a population of Rastafarians who have kept this tradition
alive…and they should also be given the legal right to consume it in that fashion,” she said.
The Virgin Islands decriminalized cannabis in December 2014, when the legislature voted to
override a veto by the territory’s then-governor, John de Jongh Jr. That law made possession of
less than one ounce a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $200. Like the just-passed
medical bill, it was sponsored by Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson, one of the USVI’s openly
Advocates Seek Local Control Over Cannabis Industry
Concerns were raised about assuring local control of any emergent cannabis industry in the
territory. Radio host and Virgin Islands historian Mario Moorhead cautioned that full legalization
could lead to outside interests flooding the market with imported cannabis, or controlling local
production — creating only a few low-paying jobs for those born and raised in the archipelago.
In 2016, as the debate gained momentum, The Source wrote in an editorial entitled “Legalize It
Now! (But Do It Right): “If some corporation imports marijuana to this tropical island, much of the
money will immediately turn around and leave the territory. Instead of young men selling on the
street corners and in the bars, we will have a smaller number of young men working for
minimum wage at the register in some chain shop. We can do better.”
The editorial called for legalizing only locally grown cannabis and restricting production to
“traditional family farms, defined, like local fishing, by families who have traditionally engaged in
farming in the USVI.”
The editorial also recognized legalization as a human rights issue, noting an egregious case in
2012, when raids on several St. Croix homes to break up a supposed marijuana ring left a local
youth dead — who turned out to be the son of a prominent personage on the island.
The youth, Kendall Petersen Jr, was shot by police while fleeing his house. His father, Kendall
“Seigo” Petersen, a Rastafarian elder who had been a Virgin Islands constitutional convention
delegate in 2009, had been arrested a few years earlier for marijuana. Seigo Petersen died in
2014, hailed as a father figure for a generation of Crucians (as the people of St. Croix, an island
within the U.S. Virgin Islands, are known). The painful affair helped spur a mandate for reform of
the territory’s cannabis laws.
The U.S. Virgin Islands now join other U.S. overseas territories that have opened legal space for
cannabis. Guam became the first U.S. territory to pass a medical marijuana law in 2014. Puerto
Rico followed suit the next year. The Northern Mariana Islands passed a general legalization of
cannabis last year.
The nation of Jamaica broke ground for sacramental use of cannabis by Rastafarians, including
such provisions in its 2015 Ganja Law.