At a time when California became the latest state in the US to legalize recreational marijuana use, the long-debated issue of decriminalizing the plant has once again emerged in the British Virgin Islands.
On one hand, persons said the territory should capitalize on what is being described as a multibillion-dollar industry that could create much-needed jobs and revenue. Meanwhile, others fear that relaxing local marijuana laws could hurt the BVI.
Vice President of the BVI Medical Doctors Association Dr Craig Stoutt and Social Commentator Douglas Wheatley, both agreed that marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes.
Dr Stoutt, however, told BVI News that he does not support legalization of marijuana for recreational use because it is a gateway drug.
“It can open the doors or avenues for use of other illicit drugs. Now, if it is going to be legalized for medicinal use, that is another story because it does have uses in that avenue. But for recreational use definitely not.”
Dr Stoutt said if it is used for medicinal purposes, there will be controlled barriers dictating how the drug should be used. On the other hand, he said authorities might have difficulty governing recreational use of the drug.
“There are many things to consider before they make a move with that,” Dr Stoutt reasoned.
Wheatley, in the meantime, said he foresees an economic boost in the BVI if marijuana is legalized or even decriminalized for medical purposes and otherwise.
He added that while he supports relaxing marijuana laws, the weed should be used in moderation. He further made it clear that he would not stand for drug abuse.
“What happens sometimes is it is mixed with other things that are more dangerous and deadly, and that creates a problem. But in its pure form, it’s a herb and it has medicinal purposes. Use that way and not in excess,” said Wheatley who, years ago, called for one of the greenhouses in Paraquita Bay to be used to cultivate marijuana.
And while stating that legalization could attract more visitors to the territory, Wheatley said he would not use marijuana as an advertising tool.
“I think if the people know that they can have it here and it’s not a crime and they want to come and participate, I don’t have a problem with that at all. And if they want to come in large numbers, I don’t have a problem with that either. But I am not sure if I want us to go and advertise that we have marijuana tourism.”
California legalized the drug at the start of the 2018 year. According to their new laws, persons 21 or older are allowed to possess up to one ounce of the drug.
This move comes ahead of Canada’s July 2018 target to become the second country on the planet to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide. Uraguay is the first.
BVI residents weigh in
Meanwhile, members of the public who also spoke on the matter had mixed reactions.
“My thing on that is it is a plant and you can’t make a plant illegal. It’s not a chemical, it’s not like something purified or manufactured. It’s just a plant. My opinion on that is it doesn’t really matter. It is just a plant. If people start smoking banana leaf, we would make it illegal too? It shouldn’t be illegal in the first place. Once the stigma is removed it will boost the economy. Once we have it legal and people can come here and get it. People will rush to get it so it will be good for tourism. It’s going to be good,” said one businessman.
One taxi operator who goes by the name Charlie’s Angel also supports relaxing the territory’s marijuana laws.
He said: “I really think they should legalize marijuana here for the younger generation. You legalize a quantity because you not going to stop them from doing what they want to do, so just legalize this thing. We would get a lot more tourists than we getting now. Irma and Maria came and everything slowed down, no kind of business going on for us now.”
Meanwhile, a local Rastafarian who goes by the monicker ‘Messiah’ said: “Yes, legalize a certain amount. There are a lot of smokers here.”
On the other hand, one female senior citizen who preferred to speak anonymously said: “We have crime here already, we don’t want to go selling marijuana. We live without that. My dead parents lived without that. Their parents lived without that, so I am not in favour of it. We are a rich country, we don’t need money from that.”
A hospitality worker from East End also shared the senior citizen’s views.
“It has benefits but it would also make a mess because it could go out of control. It is already out of control, it would only get worse. So I don’t think it should happen.”
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