U.S. Virgin Islands looks to cannabis legalization for new source of funding

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Calling it “a new revolution that has taken the nation by storm,” the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands is assembling the territory’s legislature to look at legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes.

The amendment introduced by Albert Bryan Jr. would expand on the medical marijuana program approved last year and make the Virgin Islands the third U.S. territory to take the step, behind Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Marijuana Moment reports.

“This amendment creates a regulated system, enables tourists and increases tax revenue to the government of the Virgin Islands,” Bryan said. “The reality is, we have come to a time when we must take action. We needed to have a funding stream we could depend on.”

The legislation would require interested residents over the age of 21 to obtain a “non-prescribed” or “non-medicinal” licence that would permit them to buy and grow cannabis. Sales of the drug would be taxed at a rate of 30 per cent, bringing an estimated $20-million in new revenue to the territory yearly, according to government projections.

The ammendment would direct 75 per cent of the new funds to the Virgin Islands government retirement program, 20 per cent to senior citizen programs and the remaining five per cent to the Office of Cannabis Regulations.

The Virgin Islands expect the tourism industry to contribute greatly to its coffers and plans to offer cannabis day passes (for $10) to help newcomers savour their stay. “We have the products they are accustomed to at home,” Bryan said. “At our peak we saw 2.1 million visitors in a year. With a $10 pass and, say, 10 per cent who smoke, that’s $2 million alone in just day passes.”

The proposal also includes social justice provisions that require retail outlets to obtain the majority of their product from local growers. “One of the things we strove to do was to make sure that those who were victimized for cannabis use in the past would be exonerated of those crimes,” Bryan said.

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