U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Would Be ‘Silly’ Not To Signal Marijuana Legalization Invoice, Senate Sponsor Says

The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) is about to turn into the following jurisdiction within the nation to legalize marijuana, with a invoice awaiting imminent motion from the pro-reform governor. The sponsor desires to be clear, nevertheless, that the laws isn’t meant to be an financial panacea for the territory, even when it’d bolster tourism and assist straighten up the present medical hashish program.

Sen. Janelle Sarauw (I) instructed Marijuana Second in a telephone interview on Tuesday that she hasn’t heard from the governor’s workplace about his intentions for her legalization invoice that the legislature delivered to his desk late final month. However she mentioned it could be “silly” of Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D) “to not signal it,” particularly given his repeated marketing campaign pledges backing the reform generally even when he differs on particular provisions.

The connection between the senator and governor because it pertains to hashish legalization has been tense, although each help ending prohibition and making a regulated market. Bryan publicly pressured Sarauw to file her invoice because it was being finalized, and the senator has been crucial of the governor’s personal earlier reform proposal.

Sarauw mentioned that it was crucial that the laws wasn’t rushed, as she didn’t need to see a repeat of what she’s described as a poor rollout of the medical hashish legislation that was enacted early in Bryan’s administration. Her laws serves a twin function to that finish: legalizing marijuana for grownup use whereas substituting the medical hashish legislation.

“I mixed each of them to allow them to transfer parallel to one another,” she mentioned. “The most important distinction within the leisure piece is {that a} leisure piece permits for a larger element round social fairness within the territory.”

Ending prohibition is a significant reform—however not one which she desires folks to imagine will resolve the territory’s financial points. Whereas Bryan has made a lot in regards to the potential enhance in tourism that he believes legalization can produce for USVI, for instance, Sarauw desires to mood expectations, saying it would present guests with “one other layer, an amenity” to get pleasure from, however not one thing that she expects will appeal to vacationers by itself.

The governor hasn’t mentioned whether or not he plans to signal the invoice or not, however the legislature’s web site says that it was delivered to him on January 9. He has ten days to signal, veto or permit the laws to take impact with out his signature.

As they labored to finalize the reform measure, a delegation of USVI lawmakers, together with Sarauw, visited Colorado final 12 months to be taught in regards to the state’s expertise as one of many first to legalize leisure hashish.

The senator mentioned that she and her colleagues drew many classes from the journey that helped inform their method. They realized, as an example, the significance of creating sturdy packaging and labeling necessities to forestall youth entry and making certain that the territory has the assets to implement these laws.

She additionally mentioned that they heard “unequivocally” from officers that the governor’s bold income projections for legalization have been “inflated,” and she or he desires to set the report straight that it’s going to take years of implementation earlier than USVI begins to see important financial advantages from this system.

“There are loads of takeaways,” she mentioned. “What we’ve centered on within the authorities has been the nice, the nice, the nice [of legalization].” However, “like anything,” there are issues that must be addressed—”and we undoubtedly should be taught from the errors of the states.”

She mentioned that she does count on the territory’s legalization legislation, if the governor finally enacts it, will proceed to be amended.

One distinctive a part of the method to legalize hashish within the territory issues the function of the federal authorities. Whereas the Justice Division has typically taken a hands-off method to state-level hashish markets, USVI is way more intently enmeshed with the federal authorities as a territory with out its personal structure, Sarauw mentioned.

“I’m hoping that the federal authorities doesn’t intrude, however I actually can’t say that they received’t as a result of we have already got a really heavy federal presence now,” she mentioned. “That is additionally why I moved [to hold a Constitutional Convention] as a result of we do want a structure that may give us some degree of political maturity.”

The introduction of the senator’s reform laws got here 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 below are a few of the major provisions of Sarauw’s legalization invoice:

Adults over the age of 21 might possess as much as two ounces of marijuana, fourteen grams of hashish concentres and one ounce of hashish merchandise resembling edibles, ointments and tinctures.

The laws would create an Workplace of Hashish Regulation (OCR), tasked with issuing marijuana enterprise licenses, overseeing the trade and setting guidelines on points like promoting, packaging and labeling.

There can 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 can be caps on what number of licenses OCR might grant for every of the territory’s major islands. Regulators might concern extra after January 1, 2025 in the event that they conduct a research demonstrating that the growth is required to fulfill client demand.

People who use marijuana for sacramental functions might apply for their very own cultivation permits.

There can be a tax of a minimum of 18 p.c on marijuana bought from dispensaries, however that will not 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 can be break up amongst packages to handle behavioral well being, homelessness and youth recreation, in addition to administration of the hashish program and the territory’s basic fund.

There can be a track-and-trace program for hashish merchandise.

There are additionally a number of fairness parts within the legalization invoice, together with prioritized software scoring for minority, ladies and service-injured entrepreneurs.

There can be a 100 milligram THC cap on edibles, and every serving might 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 method that doesn’t attraction to folks beneath 21.

Marijuana Second is monitoring a whole lot of hashish, psychedelics and drug coverage payments in state legislatures and Congress this 12 months. Patreon supporters pledging at the very least $25/month get entry to our interactive maps, charts and listening to calendar so that they don’t miss any developments.

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The legislature individually authorized complementary expungements laws final month. It was amended forward of passage and now offers 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 therapy, careworn in Might that it’s “been three years now shifting” the difficulty, and so lawmakers have to “get it by the legislature so we are able to get some cash going.”

He signed a medical hashish legalization invoice into legislation 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 might 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.

If the governor indicators the legalization invoice, USVI wouldn’t be 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 legislation.

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Picture courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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