A Bill seeking to establish a medicinal cannabis program in the Virgin Islands was approved by a majority of senators last Friday and has been forwarded to Governor Kenneth Mapp for final review.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are a group of Caribbean islands and islets and are part of U.S. territory. There are three different political jurisdictions in the VI: the British, the United States and the Spanish (or Puerto Rican) Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act is related to the U.S. Territory only.
The purpose of the Act is to allow the beneficial use of medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating conditions and their medical treatments.
Bill 32-0135 was debated at the 32nd Legislature, chaired by Senate President Myron D. Jackson, and saw “much deliberation”. It’s the result of a November 2014 ballot initiative, when 56% of voters supported the legalisation of medical marijuana. It’s been a long haul since then, with a similar bill failing to make headway back in 2016.
The market in the VI won’t be huge – testimony in the lead-up to the vote provided by economist Mark Wenner conservatively estimates the potential market in the Virgin Islands is likely to be between 1-2 percent; or around approximately 1025 to 2050 people from a population of around 107,000 (2017 figure).
Champion of the Bill, Senator Positive T.A. Nelson, was very pleased with the result.
“It is historic for the Virgin Islands. Medical cannabis is on its way,” said Mr. Nelson. “I still don’t know how to feel, you know, I’ve taken such a whooping.”
One of the points of resistance was VI’s Department of Health, which testified in November:
“..the Department of Health supports the fact that cannabis may have medical value; however, we are unable to support the bill in its current form.”
Whether the DoH’s concerns have been assuaged by the final bill isn’t clear as the latest version didn’t appear to be available online at the time of publishing.
The St. John Source reports the bill was passed with a 9-4 vote.