Adult-use cannabis is now legal in the Virgin Islands after its governor signed a new bill legalizing the plant.
On Wednesday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. signed the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act into law, permitting adult-use of the plant while regulating its production and distribution as well.
The bill was introduced in October, approved by lawmakers at the end of December and sent to the governor’s office to be signed afterward.
Governor Bryan also issued a proclamation granting people in the territory who have been convicted of cannabis possession charges automatic expungement or the opportunity to apply for pardons.
“It is my goal to make sure many of us who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis are afforded every opportunity to participate in this new and legal cannabis industry,” said Governor Bryan.
Convictions for possession of cannabis not exceeding two ounces will be automatically expunged under the new legislation. Those who have been charged with possession of a greater amount in the past will need to apply for a pardon with the Virgin Islands Department of Justice. The governor has estimated that approximately 300 people in the Virgin Islands have been convicted of cannabis possession over the last two decades.
On Wednesday, January 18, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. @govbryan signed into law the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act (Act 8680), which allows for the legal use by adults for medicinal, sacramental and other uses and also regulates the production, distribution and use of cannabis. pic.twitter.com/WbqmZmBXxf
— Government House USVI (@govhouseusvi) January 19, 2023
Read more: Adult-use cannabis market opens in New York
Governor Bryan says the new legislation will create entrepreneurship and employment opportunities for Virgin Islanders and a revenue stream that will be utilized to fund essential government operations and initiatives.
“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,” said Governor Bryan in a Facebook video posted on Wednesday.
The news follows Joe Biden pardoning all federal convictions for simple cannabis possession last October and multiple U.S. states like Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut opening their adult-use markets last December and this month.
In recent days, other states such as Kentucky and Illinois have been opening new research centres investigating cannabis for everything from treating health conditions such as anxiety and inflammation to the plant’s social impact on society.