On August 10, the United States Virgin Islands’ cannabis advisory board approved regulations for its medical cannabis program. In a unanimous decision, then decided on August 12 that said regulations would be posted publicly for 30 days. During this time, the public can voice their opinions and concerns about the proposal. An in-person meeting on August 31 will be held for the same purpose.
The current draft outlines that licenses will become available over the next three months. Licenses will be across various categories. Cultivation licenses will be available starting October 3. Research and development licenses on October 26, and manufacturing licenses on December 5. Finally, full dispensary licenses will roll out last beginning December 27.
But these licenses are limited, with each district of the territory having a set number available. These range from eight to one as per the current proposal. Local businesses will be awarded licenses based on merit as of now.
The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act is what started this long journey back in January 2019. Signed into law by Governor Albert Bryan (D), it provided a $500,000 loan from the territory’s general fund to start the medical cannabis program. expected to have regulations in place by the end of 2019, the program has faced many challenges to this point. Many of the timelines released earlier have come and gone. Chairwoman Catherine Kean stated that the most recent one remains unfinalized as well.
To put it simply, the road has been rocky. Voters initially approved medical cannabis in 2014. The island’s legislators passed the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act in 2018, and the governor signed it into law in 2019. Now, more than three years later, the Virgin Islands are finally taking the key step to eventual legalization. Part of the delay is explained by the search for a new executive director following the law being signed. It wasn’t until September 2021 when agriculture department official Hannah Curty was selected for the role.
As for other delays, we remain unsure of their cause. That is, apart from speculation revolving around the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, residents of the territory remain hopeful that the new proposal finally signals that efforts are underway. The US Virgin Islands is on the track to approving medical cannabis alongside many other jurisdictions across the nation.