You are here
Home > News > Virgin Islands Inches Closer to Adult-Use Cannabis, Expungements

Virgin Islands Inches Closer to Adult-Use Cannabis, Expungements

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, cannabis remains a controversial topic that is attracting political attention. The Virgin Islands saw the introduction of two bills on October 24th: One to legalize adult cannabis use; and one that would erase eligible cannabis convictions.

No. 21-0160 would legalize marijuana for those aged 21 years and older, and Bill No. 21-0160 would legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 and over, while Bill No. Officials from the government continue to press for a viable bill after at least two unsuccessful attempts.

Janelle Sarauw sponsored both bills. Sarauw has worked for some time on cannabis reform. “It has been a very cumbersome process to get these bills to where they are today,” she wrote in a press release, which she also posted on Facebook, referring to past promises to get legislation going on the islands.

“Although there have been many politically driven false narratives about this cannabis legislation, I am proud of the work done to ensure that locals and minorities are not locked out of the industry and have an opportunity to participate in the economic potential of the industry — from farming, to dispensaries, to incentives for boutique labs, and micro energy providers,” Sarauw wrote.

“To ignore those lessons would be foolish,” Sarauw continued. “As a political scientist, but most importantly as an elected representative of the people, it is my job to do the due diligence to protect the masses and the best interest of our residents by creating equity in opportunity.”

The 69-page legalization bill covers just about any provision that you’d expect in a U.S. state bill. The legalization bill would create an Office of Cannabis Regulation to issue business licenses and oversee the cannabis industry. It also sets rules for advertising, labeling, packaging and labeling. There would be no edibles with more than 100mg THC and only 10 mg dosages. A licensing fee would apply and there would be an additional 50 cent tax per gram for cannabis sellers to licensed users. There would be several equity elements to the bill.

People with previous cannabis convictions may petition the courts for expungement to get their convictions overturned.

The V.I. approved draft regulations for the territory’s medical cannabis program on Aug. 10. Cannabis Advisory Board (VICAB) in the U.S. Virgin Islands unanimously approved draft regulations for the territory’s medical cannabis program. Publication of the draft by Office of Cannabis Regulations was done on August 12. Long story short, the timeline didn’t adhere very well. Gov. Bryan’s administration was blamed by Sen. Sarauw for delaying the rollout of medical cannabis earlier on the islands.

Albert Bryan Jr., the governor of Virgin Islands, proposed a previous version of The Cannabis Use Act in 2019. He introduced another version in 2020. Recently, Bryan’s re-election campaign fired back and slammed Sen. Sarauw for failing to fulfill promises to legalize cannabis, which she said in 2021. But it was the pressure put on by the governor that may have contributed to Sen. Sarauw’s recent actions to release the new pieces of legislation.

Both Sen. Sarauw and Sen. Kurt Vialet (a fellow candidate who opposes cannabis legalization) are running for the governor’s seat. Bryan and Lt. Governor. Tregenza Roach will be running in the November 8th election. 

The Virgin Islands is a hotbed for Caribbean music like reggae, so it’s safe to say a lot of tourists go there to smoke. The Virgin Islands still ban public consumption, despite an active program for medical cannabis. It is illegal to smoke cannabis in public places, even with a valid medical marijuana card.