On Jan. 18, a signing ceremony was held to document Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signing The Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act (Act 8680), and proclaiming that anyone who has been convicted with simple cannabis possession is invited to apply for a pardon.
“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 and finally signing into law the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act,” Bryan said in a press release. “This Act incorporates key aspects of my original proposal, such as one streamlined regulatory scheme for both medicinal and adult use, enforcement powers for the Office of Cannabis Regulation, entrepreneurship and job opportunities for Virgin Islands residents, and the creation of a revenue stream to help fund critical Government initiatives and operations.”
The law allows adults over 21 to possess up to two ounces of cannabis, 14 grams of concentrates, and one ounce of cannabis products (defined as edibles, ointments, or tinctures). It also includes the requirement to create an Office of Cannabis Regulation, limitations on business licenses and permits, allowances for those who use cannabis as a sacrament, direction for cannabis sales tax funds to benefit community programs, and more.
At the ceremony, Bryan mentioned his experience traveling to Colorado in November with a number of other lawmakers to see firsthand how the cannabis industry thrives. “By traveling to Denver and meeting and speaking with individuals involved in all aspects of the industry from regulators, to law enforcement officers, to cultivators, manufacturers and dispensary owners, it is my hope that the individuals involved with the roll-out of this industry have learned best practices and what to avoid as we work to create this industry in the Virgin Islands,” Bryan continued.
He also addressed President Joe Biden’s announcement from October 2022 regarding expungement for citizens who were convicted of simple cannabis possession. “Today, I proclaim that all criminal convictions for the simple possession of marijuana under the Virgin Islands Code are fully and completely pardoned,” Bryan announced. “My office estimates that approximately 300 individuals have been convicted of the simple possession of marijuana in the last 20 years.”
Anyone convicted with simple cannabis possession in the U.S. Virgin Islands may now apply for a pardon with the Depart of Justice. For those who were convicted of up to two ounces of cannabis, the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act and the Expungement Act automatically expunges their record. However, Bryan recommends that the best way to ensure that the expungement goes through is to apply anyway. “Don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you, go out and grab them,” he said.
Like many states, it has taken some time for the U.S. Virgin Islands to establish both a medical and adult-use program. While residents voted to legalize medical cannabis in 2014, it wasn’t until 2019 that Bryan signed the act into law. Draft rules for the territory’s medical cannabis program were published in August 2022.
On Dec. 30, 2022, the U.S. Virgin Islands Senate passed Act 8680 bill in a 11-1 vote. The bill made its way to Bryan’s desk on Jan. 9, allowing him 10 days to make a decision to sign the bill, veto it, or to let it take effect without his signature. Bryan signed the bill just one day before the deadline.