The U.S. Virgin Islands legalized cannabis recently when Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signed a bill into law. The Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act came as a result of years of work from Bryan who first proposed cannabis legalization back in 2019.
“From the beginning of the Bryan-Roach Administration, we have worked towards the legalization of the adult use of cannabis, and today, with the hard work of the members of the 34th Legislature and prior Legislatures and the efforts of my team, we are finally here,” Governor Bryan said in a news release about the law.
The new legislation makes medicinal, personal, and sacramental cannabis use legal for adults. With the U.S. Virgin Islands legalizing cannabis, the island territory adds its citizens to the already more than 155 million people in the U.S. who live where cannabis is legal.
U.S. Virgin Island Legalized Cannabis Should Create New Businesses, Jobs
Local officials and business leaders hope that cannabis legalization will create jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities for Virgin Islands residents. Bryan plans to use cannabis revenue to fund important government resources.
Another benefit of the law is expungement of arrest records for people in the U.S. Virgin Islands who have been convicted of simple marijuana possession, much in the way the Oregon governor recently pardoned marijuana convictions.
In the case of the Virgin Islands, those with a past simple marijuana conviction can apply to the Virgin Islands Department of Justice for a pardon.
“Today, I proclaim that all criminal convictions for the simple possession of marijuana under the Virgin Islands Code are fully and completely pardoned,” Bryan said. “My office estimates that approximately 300 individuals have been convicted of the simple possession of marijuana in the last 20 years.”
Provisions of the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act
The Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act and the Expungement Act will automatically expunge the record of anyone convicted of simple possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. Anyone not eligible for automatic expungement may still have their charges expunged later, as the governor’s office has an Auto-Expungement Task Force working on recommendations for additional expungements in the future.
Legislators from the Virgin Islands previously traveled to Denver to learn about the highs and lows across all areas of the cannabis industry, speaking to manufacturers, owners of dispensaries, regulation officials, cultivators, and law enforcement agencies, in an effort to make the roll-out as successful as possible.
Some of the specifics of the new U.S. Virgin Islands law includes:
- Adults ages 21 and up can possess up to 14 grams of cannabis concentrate, 2 ounces of marijuana, and 1 ounce of products like tinctures, edibles, and ointments
- Edibles will have a 100 milligram THC cap, and each serving is allowed to contain up to 10 milligrams of THC
- A newly created Office of Cannabis Regulation will issue business licenses for marijuana companies and create rules for packaging and advertisements
- Specific permitting and licensing types will be created for marijuana retailers, cultivators, manufacturers, laboratories for testing, and places that allow on-site cannabis consumption
- There are residency requirements for owning a cannabis business
- Labels and packages will include restrictions and health warnings, and must be designed in a way that doesn’t appeal target underage consumers
- Citizens who use cannabis for sacramental reasons can apply for a cultivation permits
- Medical cannabis will not be taxed, while cannabis for personal use from dispensaries will be taxed no less than 18%
- Tax revenue will benefit programs for youth recreation, homelessness, and behavioral health, plus will help run the cannabis program and benefit the island’s general fund
- Equity considerations are also included in the law, with prioritized applications for women, minorities, and people injured in service