The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) has formally signed a pair of payments to legalize marijuana and facilitate hashish expungements within the territory, making it the most recent jurisdiction within the nation to finish prohibition.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D) signed the laws, sponsored by Sen. Janelle Sarauw (I), simply earlier than a 10-day deadline for motion. He additionally took the chance to subject a proclamation permitting folks to petition for pardons for prior hashish possession convictions.
“From the start of the Bryan-Roach Administration, we’ve got labored in the direction of the legalization of the grownup use of hashish, and at present, with the onerous work of the members of the thirty fourth Legislature and prior Legislatures and the efforts of my crew, we’re lastly right here and eventually signing into regulation the Virgin Islands Hashish Use Act,” the governor, who launched his personal legalization proposal in 2019, mentioned.
Whereas Bryan thanked a number of lawmakers for his or her work on the difficulty at a signing ceremony on Wednesday, the sponsor of the reform laws was notably absent and went unacknowledged. It’s no secret that there’s been stress between the 2, with the governor publicly criticizing the senator at factors over what he described as pointless delays in introducing the reform measure.
“This Act incorporates key features of my unique proposal, corresponding to one streamlined regulatory scheme for each medicinal and grownup use, enforcement powers for the Workplace of Hashish Regulation, entrepreneurship and job alternatives for Virgin Islands residents, and the creation of a income stream to assist fund important Authorities initiatives and operations,” Bryan mentioned.
Sarauw informed Marijuana Second in an interview on Tuesday that it was crucial that the laws wasn’t rushed, as she didn’t wish to see a repeat of what she’s described as a poor rollout of the medical hashish regulation that was enacted early in Bryan’s administration. Her laws serves a twin objective to that finish: legalizing marijuana for grownup use whereas substituting the medical hashish regulation.
The senator, who was the nominee for lieutenant governor on a ticket opposing Bryan final 12 months, was a part of a delegation of USVI lawmakers who visited Colorado final 12 months to study concerning the state’s expertise as one of many first to legalize leisure hashish.
“By touring to Denver and assembly and talking with people concerned in all features of the business from regulators, to regulation enforcement officers, to cultivators, producers and dispensary house owners, it’s my hope that the people concerned with the roll-out of this business have realized finest practices and what to keep away from as we work to create this business within the Virgin Islands,” the governor mentioned on Wednesday.
“We’re bringing the alternatives to you, however you have to additionally do your half to grab these alternatives. It’s my purpose to verify many people who’ve been negatively impacted by the criminalization of hashish are afforded each alternative to take part on this new and authorized hashish business.”
The pardon proclamation that the governor individually issued on Wednesday will empower folks with marijuana possession convictions to hunt aid by way of the Virgin Islands Division of Justice.
“The Bryan-Roach administration helps the reform of Hashish coverage and the restorative justice results that go hand-in-hand with that reform,” Bryan mentioned. “At this time, I proclaim that every one felony convictions for the straightforward possession of marijuana beneath the Virgin Islands Code are absolutely and fully pardoned. My workplace estimates that roughly 300 people have been convicted of the straightforward possession of marijuana within the final 20 years.”
This invoice signing additionally comes months after the governor included hashish legalization income in a funds proposal that he despatched to lawmakers and indicated that he would possibly convene a particular session to enact the coverage change.
Listed here are a few of the essential provisions of the USVI legalization regulation:
Adults over the age of 21 can possess as much as two ounces of marijuana, fourteen grams of hashish concentres and one ounce of hashish merchandise corresponding to edibles, ointments and tinctures.
The laws will create an Workplace of Hashish Regulation (OCR), tasked with issuing marijuana enterprise licenses, overseeing the business and setting guidelines on points like promoting, packaging and labeling.
There will likely be a number of license and allow varieties, together with for hashish producers, retailers, cultivators, micro-cultivators, testing laboratories and on-site consumption entities.
There will likely be caps on what number of licenses OCR may grant for every of the territory’s essential islands. Regulators can subject extra after January 1, 2025 in the event that they conduct a examine demonstrating that the enlargement is required to fulfill client demand.
People who use marijuana for sacramental functions can apply for their very own cultivation permits.
There will likely be a tax of a minimum of 18 % on marijuana bought from dispensaries, however that won’t apply to medical hashish. The invoice additionally lays out licensing charges and requires a 50 cent per gram tax on hashish cultivators who promote marijuana to different licensees.
Income will likely be break up amongst applications to deal with behavioral well being, homelessness and youth recreation, in addition to administration of the hashish program and the territory’s common fund.
There will likely be a track-and-trace program for hashish merchandise.
There are additionally a number of fairness parts within the legalization invoice, together with prioritized utility scoring for minority, ladies and service-injured entrepreneurs.
There will likely be a 100 milligram THC cap on edibles, and every serving can comprise as much as 10 milligrams.
Moreover, there are residency necessities for marijuana enterprise possession.
There are packaging and labeling restrictions, with the invoice stipulating that labels should embody well being warnings and be designed in a means that doesn’t attraction to folks beneath 21.
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The complementary expungements laws that the governor signed was amended forward of passage and now gives for automated aid from the courts for folks with prior convictions involving as much as two ounces of marijuana. As launched, the laws would have required folks to petition the courts.
Bryan, who has additionally talked about marijuana as a safer various to opioids for ache remedy, burdened in Could that it’s “been three years now shifting” the difficulty, and so lawmakers have to “get it by way of the legislature so we will get some cash going.”
He signed a medical hashish legalization invoice into regulation in 2019.
There was a listening to on the governor’s adult-use legalization proposal in 2020, with a number of authorities companies testifying in favor of the reform and outlining how a regulated hashish market may assist the territory, particularly given its financial wants.
Bryan has additionally emphasised the necessity to legalize, tax and regulate hashish to generate income amid the financial downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
USVI isn’t the primary U.S. territory to enact the reform. The governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) signed a invoice to finish prohibition in 2018. The next 12 months, the governor of Guam signed legalization into regulation.
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The publish U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Indicators Marijuana Legalization And Expungements Payments, And Points Hashish Pardon Proclamation appeared first on Marijuana Second.