Senator Terrence Nelson has sponsored a measure that, if it appears on the November general election ballot, would allow voters to give a simple yes or no answer to the question of whether the Legislature should allow for the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana cultivators, distribution centers, caregivers and patients.
For the Legislature to move forward with enacting this legislation, however, not only do the majority of voters on the issue have to vote yes, but the general majority of voters casting ballots in November also have to choose to vote on that specific referendum measure. Many senators expressed strong support of the bill and of the use of medical marijuana in general, and intend to increase efforts to educate the voting public on the medicinal value of marijuana.
Promoting economic development
The approval of this measure is the first time the Legislature of the Virgin Islands has supported a motion to reform marijuana laws by lessening restrictions. Last year, Senator Nelson proposed a bill to reduce penalties for marijuana violations, as well as a referendum on legalizing marijuana. This referendum actually focused on marijuana as an industry booster for the territory rather than as a recreational drug, and garnered support from both local medical practitioners and individuals with serious illnesses who use marijuana for relief from symptoms. These individuals cited studies with data proving the usefulness of marijuana in relieving nausea, pain and other chronic symptoms.
The Bureau of Economic Research was not ready to support the suggestion that the legalization of medical marijuana would boost the U.S. Virgin Islands’ economy, testifying that an economic analysis would be necessary. However, there was a possibility that marijuana legalization could interfere with rum production, one of the Territory’s main industries, although not with local revenues from rum sales.
Proponents have pointed out that legalizing medical marijuana in the U.S. Virgin Islands would dramatically increase the amount of visitors seeking its medicinal properties, boosting hotel rental rates, local cuisine consumption and other tourism dollars.
By adding the measure to the November ballot, the U.S. Virgin Islands is joining the 35 states and the District of Columbia that currently have bills under consideration related to the reformation of marijuana laws to approve and regulate medical marijuana use.
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