A preliminary piece of legislation has been developed to start the process of relaxing marijuana laws in the British Virgin Islands.
Agriculture Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley made the announcement while speaking at the second annual Hemp Fest on the sister island of Jost Van Dyke on Saturday, July 13.
He said: “Even before this current administration led by Premier Andrew Fahie, there was a discussion about cannabis. Perhaps it was a little quieter discussion but … there is actually a draft bill on the legalization of marijuana that I am currently reviewing. It was done by the last administration,” the minister said.
Community discussions coming
Dr Wheatley said extensive discussions will need to be had about the drug, whose main component is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive part of the plant that gives users what they recognise as a ‘high’.
“Discussion about protecting children, discussions about operating heavy machinery and driving, and having a discussion about the proper regulation of marijuana [must be had] because we don’t believe this thing should be a free-for-all,” Dr Wheatley stated.
“We certainly know that marijuana, which contains THC, has an impact on your disposition. It has an impact on you being able to complete certain tasks. So, we don’t want to fool everyone into thinking that we think persons should be up and down smoking marijuana through the streets without any sort of regulation.”
He said residents can expect community meetings to be held in the near future.
“If the population of the Virgin Islands, as I believe it to be, is ready for the legalization of marijuana, then we have to have a discussion about how we’re going to do it,” he reasoned.
Imprisoning persons for simple possession is wrong
Dr Wheatley also described the matter of imprisoning persons for possession of small quantities of cannabis as unjust.
He said these kinds of events will be a thing of the past once the legislation is hashed and implemented.
“We will decriminalize marijuana on that level. Persons will no longer be incarcerated for the possession and consumption of something that is recognized to be a lot less detrimental to your health. In fact, we’re speaking about the medicinal value of it than something like alcohol. It’s proven that alcohol is much more damaging to your health than marijuana.”
BVI as a model
The legislator also said that the BVI can be used as an example to the world about the responsible legalization and the responsible administering of the marijuana industry, once the entire process is finalized.
“We certainly support having a well-regulated industry and the fact that we’re coming in late into this whole discussion of marijuana means that we don’t have to repeat the mistakes that some of our brothers and sisters made in other places.”
Meanwhile, Positive Nelson, who is currently the Commissioner of Agriculture in the US Virgin Islands where medical marijuana is legal, commended Minister Wheatley for his courageous move in tackling the issue while still fresh in office.
“I told you already it is not easy to stand up for cannabis. I still have some scars on my back relative to the push in the Virgin Islands (US). Here in the British Virgin Islands, you are talking about legalization and I want for local leaders here to continue to be brave enough to move forward. Yes, there is going to be pushbacks. But, the truth in the matter is this: the truth is on your side. The truth is on our side,” said Nelson who is also a former senator of 14 years before opting to switch his role in government.
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