The Virgin Islands’ government is again debating permitting the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp; a topic it has been tussling with for quite some time – and may well be for a while longer.
The proposed legislation considers industrial hemp as Cannabis sativa L. with a concentration of THC (tetrahydrocannibinol) of 0.3 percent or less; rendering it unsuitable for recreational use.
The legislation outlines application requirements, licenses and processes. It envisions the Agricultural Minister would disseminate regulations as well as being responsible for testing THC levels in industrial hemp. It also outlines legal defenses for growers and research and studies to be undertaken.
Championing the bill is Senator Terrence Nelson and Senators Clifford Graham, Myron Jackson and Tregenza Roach.
In November, Senator Jackson sent a letter to Kenneth L. Gittens, Chair of the Committee on Rules & Judiciary; urging his support. The Committee had reportedly been a major barrier to having the legislation considered by the entire legislature.
“By moving this legislation forward, we as lawmakers have the chance to potentially invigorate our local economy that could use a much-needed boost,” wrote Senator Jackson.
“Industrial hemp has the potential to empower our local farmers and invigorate our agri-business community by creating an industry where very little exists.”
The Virgin Islands’ Attorney-General appears to be another player still digging his heels in.
“The position of the Attorney General’s Office is the same: That we oppose the bill in the strongest possible terms,” said AG Claude Walker this week, according to a report on The Virgin Islands Daily News.
Apparently, Mr. Walker believes the bill would violate the USA’s federal Control Substances Act – and the U.S. Virgin Islands is ultimately governed under U.S. federal statutes. That doesn’t seem to have stopped some U.S. states from permitting industrial hemp cultivation.
As mentioned, the battle for industrial hemp in the Virgin Islands has been going on some time.
Back in 2012, Senator Nelson proposed holding referendums concerning medical cannabis and industrial hemp. The referendum on medical cannabis was blocked at that time, but the one for industrial hemp went ahead; achieving approval by 57% of voters.
This was followed by the Legislature of the Virgin Islands voting by 10–4 to pass a law permitting the use of industrial hemp on 21 August, 2012.
A medical cannabis referendum (non-binding) did end up being held in 2014, with nearly 57% of voters approving use of the plant for medical applications.