On August 10, the Sixth Cannabis Advisory Board (VICAB) of the US Virgin Islands unanimously approved draft regulations for the medical cannabis program. On August 12, the Bureau of Cannabis Regulations Publicize the draftIt will remain available online for 30 days from the public comment window that ends on September 11. Additionally, an in-person meeting is scheduled for August 31 as well.
According to the current draft, licenses will soon become available over the next three months, with agriculture licenses starting on October 3, research and development licenses on October 26, manufacturing licenses on December 5 and finally dispensary licenses on December 27. . Bids for laboratory services will also open on October 12, with physician registration on November 3, and patient registration on December 14. All licenses will be unlocked for 30 days after the start date, once reviewed and registered. The results of any applicant with a score of 80% or more will be published to the public.
However, competition is fierce, with Saint Thomas being allowed to have eight Tier 1 cultivation licenses, Saint John will allow four, and Saint Croix will allow one. However, this may be subject to change, with Executive Director Hannah Karty saying in March that “the exact number of licenses to be issued annually will be determined by the Cannabis Advisory Board. They may not release licenses that supersede the amounts permitted under Law No. 19 VI; Chapter 34,” Karti said.
VICAB had been seeking to adopt a lottery system among eligible license applicants, but the Sixth Commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs Richard Evangelista, among others, opposed the idea. “The lottery system seems to be a double effort and I don’t think it should be a lottery, I think it should be merit-based, as long as we have a valid and fair score sheet,” Evangelista said. “I think it should be based on merit, not merit and lottery.” The rules have been modified to use the lottery only in the event of a tie.
VICAB is working on a one-time $500,000 loan from the Office of Management and Budget. After two years, the department must fund itself entirely through the fees it collects.
According to Agriculture Commissioner Positive Nelson, the schedule requires urgent action. “The longer it takes for the program to start, the longer it takes for revenue generation to sustain itself, so that’s part of the hiccup there, and we may have to ask the legislature for more time if we don’t get it,” Nelson said.
In response, Board Chair Dr. Catherine Kane shared a message for viewers to provide insight into why the show took so long to compile. “I think we want the general public to realize that we never expected it to take this long to roll out,” ken said. “All of the obstacles that we encountered along the way, whether real or perceived as obstacles… the past three years have been very difficult. So the $500,000 we were willing to pay back, I think we’ve been cutting that back somewhat. We’re just trying to really move forward. Once we get the rules and regulations, and use that strategic plan, I think we can try to go around the corner so we can really start raising some money again once the licenses are out.”
Voters in The Virgin Islands approved medical cannabis in 2014; Lawmakers passed the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act in 2018; Governor Albert Bryan signed the act into law in 2019. The VICAB Center held its first meeting in January 2020, and now two years later, the US Virgin Islands is one step closer to implementing its program.
According to St. Thomas’ source, the rules for the program were supposed to be developed within 120 days of the law being signed by Governor Brian, but there was a delay when a new CEO was sought. In the end, Hana Karti was appointed to this position September 2021.
Evangelista said in September. “They have now been tasked with running the Office of Cannabis Regulation. They will be the ones to liaise with the actual office that will be tasked with this; we only have oversight responsibility. They will be tasked with making sure the rules and regulations are published, and allowing for public comment, which is why it has been such an integral part of The process of getting a director on board.