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Draft Rules Published for U.S. Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Program

August 10, 2010, the V.I. The draft regulations for the U.S. Virgin Islands’ medical marijuana program were unanimously approved by the Cannabis Advisory Board (VICAB). The draft was posted publicly by the Office of Cannabis Regulations on Aug. 12. It will be available for public comments until Sept. 11, and then it will go offline. A meeting will also be held on Aug. 31, in person.

Current draft indicates that licensing will be made available within the next three-months. The cultivation licenses begin on Oct. 3. Research and development licenses start on Oct. 26, and manufacturing licenses are on Dec. 5. Dispensary licenses follow on Dec. 27. The laboratory services request forms will open on October 12, and physician registration will take place on November 3. Patient registration will take place on December 14. After being reviewed and scored by the committee, all licenses will remain open for 30 consecutive days. The results of applicants who score 80% or higher will then be made public.

There is intense competition as St. Thomas can have eight cultivation licenses at level one. St. John allows four while St. Croix only permits one. However, this could be subject to change, as Executive Director Hannah Carty shared in March that “the exact number of licenses to be released on an annual basis will be determined by the Cannabis Advisory Board. They will not grant licenses to exceed 19 V.I. Code; Chapter 34,” Carty said.

VICAB had been seeking to implement a lottery system for qualifying applicants of licenses, but V.I. Richard Evangelista from the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs opposed this idea. “The lottery system seems like it’s a duplicative effort and I don’t think it should be a lottery, I think it should be based on merit, as long as we have a valid, fair scoresheet,” said Evangelista. “I think it should be based on merit, not merit and a lottery.” The rules were amended to use a lottery only in the event of a tie.

The VICAB is operating on a one-time loan of $500,000 from the Office of Management & Budget. The department will be fully funded by the collected fees after two years.

Positive Nelson, Agriculture Commissioner, stated that it is imperative to act quickly. “The longer it takes to start the program, the longer it’s gonna take to generate the revenue to sustain itself, so that’s part of the hiccup right there, and we may have to ask for additional time from the Legislature if we don’t get to start up real soon,” Nelson said.

As a response to Dr. Catherine Kean, the Chairman of Dr. Catherine Kean offered a message to viewers that would give insight as to why it took so long to create. “I think we want the general public to realize that we never anticipated it taking this long to roll out,” said Kean. “All of the obstacles we encountered along the way, whether they were real obstacles or perceived to be obstacles…the last three years have been very trying. We have worked hard to repay the $500,000 we paid back. We’re just trying to really move forward. Once we get the rules and regulations out there, and utilizing this strategic plan, I think we can try and turn the corner so we can actually start to accrue some funding back once we get the licenses out.”

The Virgin Islands voted in favor of medical marijuana in 2014. In 2018, lawmakers passed the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act. Gov. Albert Bryan was the one to sign the law into 2019. VICAB met for the first time in January 2020. Now, two years later the U.S. Virgin Islands are moving closer to implementing its program.

The St. Thomas Source states that the rules for program development were to have been completed within 120 days after the act was signed by Governor. Bryan but Bryan had to wait while a new executive director was sought. Hannah Carty was eventually appointed to this position in September 2021.

“Essentially this person is going to be, a play on words, the cultivator of the cannabis advisory board,” said Evangelista in September. “They are now tasked with running the Office of Cannabis Regulation. These people will be the liaison with the office charged with cannabis regulation. We have oversight responsibility. They are going to be tasked with making sure the rules and regulations are being published, public comment is permitted and that is why it was integral to the process that we get a director on board.”