The U.S. Virgin Islands adopted a medical marijuana program last week when newly elected Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signed the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act into law. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson, passed out of the legislature on December 28.
“After such a prolonged beating, I don’t know how to feel, except relieved for the people who finally have access to healthy, effective, and affordable medicinal cannabis,” Nelson said in an interview with Marijuana Moment.
Nelson had sponsored several medical marijuana bills in previous legislative sessions, but the bills ultimately failed.
What sort of marijuana use is allowable under the new law?
Patients suffering from specific medical conditions in the U.S. Virgin Islands, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, HIV/AIDS, and chronic pain, may receive a recommendation for medical marijuana from a licensed medical professional.
Residents with a recommendation are allowed to possess up to four ounces of cannabis at a time, and possession for non-residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands is up to three ounces.
Karen O’Keefe, Director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, commended the newly passed legislation in a recent statement.
“We applaud Gov. Bryan and the Virgin Islands Legislature for enacting this sensible and compassionate legislation. Medical marijuana is widely recognized as an effective treatment for a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. This new law offers the prospect of relief for countless patients, and it will do so for generations to come,” O’Keefe wrote.
Bryan is the ninth elected governor of the territory. During the campaign trail, Bryan told The St. Thomas Source that he supported the legalization of medical cannabis “based on the proven health benefits in the relief of pain and treatment of symptoms for many serious ailments including cancer.”
“I believe a properly regulated medicinal cannabis industry can provide relief to those seeking alternatives to conventional medicine and can also be an economic driver attracting new revenues for the Virgin Islands,” Bryan said.
In accordance with the recently passed legislation, the revenue from the U.S. Virgin Island’s medical marijuana program will be utilized to fund various legislative initiatives, including drug rehabilitation, tourism projects, agriculture investments, and work training.
Medical cannabis marijuana laws across the United States and their territories
Medical marijuana laws have been adopted in 32 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and most recently, the Northern Mariana Islands. Seventeen states have adopted legislation which, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, is ineffective due to their unworkable or restrictive regulations.
Also according to the Marijuana Policy Project, Idaho remains the only state not to have any form of medical marijuana law, and American Samoa is the only U.S. territory.
“Most U.S. states and territories have enacted effective medical cannabis laws, and those that have not are giving them increasingly stronger consideration,” O’Keefe argued. “There is no reason why patients in 18 states and American Samoa should continue to be deprived of this medical treatment option that is now accessible to so many of their fellow Americans.”
The Virgin Islands have taken the next legislative step towards implementing an effective medical marijuana law, but Nelson recognizes that there is still more work to be done.
“I am ready to assist with the establishment of rules and regulations which will be the next step,” Nelson said. “However, each jurisdiction cannot be satisfied with our own success in getting local law changed, but must continue the charge until there are changes to federal government law.”