U.S. Virgin Islands Propel Recreational Cannabis Industry with Approval of Adult-Use Regulations

The United States continues its momentum in recreational cannabis reform, with territories like the Virgin Islands making significant strides in legalization efforts.

Located in the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands comprise main islands Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, along with over 50 minor islands. Since legalizing medical cannabis in 2019 and decriminalizing possession of up to an ounce, the territory has now advanced its recreational legalization agenda.

After legislative approval in January 2023, the implementation of recreational cannabis programs had faced delays until now. However, a recent decision by a Virgin Islands advisory board marks progress as they greenlight a set of regulations governing recreational cannabis use and access.

The approved law permits adults aged 21 and above to possess up to two ounces of cannabis, half an ounce of concentrates, and one ounce of edible products. Medical cannabis patients enjoy higher possession limits. Additionally, a 18% tax on recreational dispensary sales is slated, with exemptions for medical patients. A significant portion of the tax revenue, 75%, is earmarked for various initiatives including behavioral health programs, homelessness, and youth programs.

In a move reminiscent of similar policies in U.S. states with recreational cannabis laws, the Virgin Islands also include criminal expungements in its regulations. A list of individuals eligible for expungement is being finalized, aiming to rectify past cannabis-related convictions.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. emphasizes the importance of rectifying historical injustices, ensuring affected individuals have opportunities in the emerging legal cannabis industry.

Recognizing cultural and sacramental cannabis use alongside recreational use, the territory is developing a registration system for medicinal and sacramental users, with implementation expected by April. Faith organizations and medical practitioners will be subject to registration fees.

Retail businesses can anticipate registration opening by mid-2024, with the government concluding a seed-to-sale request-for-proposal process. However, cultivation and manufacturing licenses are not expected until at least 2025 due to various factors beyond immediate control.

Despite potential delays, the recent advancement signals a clearer path forward for the Virgin Islands’ recreational cannabis program. Board members express readiness to progress, likening the situation to a train ready to depart with all passengers aboard.

The U.S. Virgin Islands’ move aligns with cannabis reform trends in the Caribbean, joining nations like Antigua and Jamaica in decriminalization efforts. The Bahamas are also considering policies towards medical and religious cannabis use alongside decriminalization measures.


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