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By LeeWEpstein

July 15, 2020

 

The Legislative Assembly of the British Virgin Islands passed a Medical Cannabis Bill in early July. Governor Gus Jaspert has yet to sign the bill before it becomes law.

The original bill sought to legalize adult cannabis use, an initiative that was delayed after calls for stricter regulation.

Under the Medical Cannabis Bill, anyone over the age of 18 will be allowed to possess up to 1g of “medical cannabis for medical or therapeutic use” without a prescription. For residents and tourists who wish to possess more cannabis, up to 50g of weed or 10g of resin, a “self-declaration” document can be completed at a doctor’s office.

The bill creates licenses for “the analysis, cultivation, processing, importation, exportation, distribution and sale of cannabis in the Virgin Islands”. The legislation restricts the use or possession of cannabis in public places but allows licenses for cannabis lounges, which will be designated by the Virgin Islands Cannabis Licensing Authority.

Hemp with -1% THC and CBD products are not subject to regulation.

I am not here to promote the recreational use of marijuana,” said Andrew Fahie, Premier and Finance Minister of the British Virgin Islands. “But I am here to defend the medical cannabis industry within a controlled and highly regulated framework.

 

The territory needs money; the government needs revenue,” said Fahie. “We are constantly told that we need to find our own money to recover from catastrophic events. We need to develop diversity in the economy. We need to create better opportunities for our people, and the medical cannabis industry is one way to do that.

Mr. Fahie added that the territorial government, which has a population of just under 30,000, aims to create a $30 million domestic cannabis industry. Alongside this regulation, heavy fines have been maintained. Anyone exceeding the 50g possession limit without prescription could be fined up to $100,000 or 10 years in prison, and at least 3 years.

Penalties will continue to be imposed on those who illegally import or export cannabis, illegally possess cannabis, illegally sell cannabis, drive a vehicle under the influence, allow a minor to use cannabis, or cultivate without a license.

Cultivation will also be heavily regulated by the Government of the Virgin Islands to remain consistent with the common laws that the Territory shares with the United Kingdom. To control the location and supply of cannabis, cultivation will be permitted only on Government-owned land designated by the Authority.

A complementary bill, the Drugs Prevention of Misuse Amendment Act, 2020, awaits final approval by the Assembly. The criminal records of persons previously convicted of possession of less than 50g of weed or 10g of resin would be erased.

We will decriminalize marijuana at this level. People will no longer be incarcerated for the possession and use of something that is known to be much less harmful to your health,” Territory Agriculture Minister Natalio Wheatley told the Assembly. We’re talking about its medicinal value more than something like alcohol. There is evidence that alcohol is much more harmful to your health than marijuana.

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