The U.S. Virgin Islands established a legal structure for medical marijuana on January 19, 2019, when Democratic Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signed into law Bill No. 32-0135, the Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act, which was approved by the legislature on December 28, 2018.
A 2014 referendum on medical marijuana received more than 10,000 affirmative votes, demonstrating that about 57% of voters agreed that the Legislature should allow for the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana patients, caregivers, cultivators, and distribution centers that would also allow for the cultivation and use of cannabis for medical and research purposes. The act also allows for medical tourism “to place the Virgin Islands in the forefront of the Caribbean wellness industry,” according to the bill text.
The bill created the Office of Cannabis Regulation (OCR) within the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs. The director will be appointed for a three-year term by the Cannabis Advisory Board, a governor-appointed, nine-member board.
The advisory board will issue regulations to oversee the following:
- Safe, appropriate and childproof packaging;
- Rules to address advertising on dispensaries and where they are based;
- Non-resident medical tourism;
- Education and certification requirements for medical marijuana employees;
- Identifying approved medical cannabis vendors;
- Creating requirements for security, transportation, recordkeeping, and other business requirements.
Patients will apply to the OCR for an identification card that permits patients to use, grow, and otherwise access medical marijuana. Patients also must have a qualifying condition and a written certification by a health-care practitioner with whom they have a bona fide relationship.
A dispensary may not dispense more than 3 ounces, or 85 grams, of dried cannabis per patient within a 14-day period.
Patient license fees
The OCR is authorized to establish a sliding scale of patient application and renewal fees based upon a qualifying patient's household income. The fees charged to qualifying patients, nonresident cardholders, and caregivers may not exceed:
- $50 per patient for residents for a one-year card
- $50 per patient for non-residents for a five-day card
- $75 per patient for non-residents for a 10-day card
- $100 per patient for non-residents for a 30-day card.
These upper limits are adjusted annually for inflation. The fees may be changed only after the program has been in place for two years.
While consumption in public spaces is not allowed, especially on public transportation and particularly while driving, nothing prevents a dispensary from providing appropriate space for consumption. Further, the bill allows licensing for facilities that offer patients 21 and older to meet and consume medical cannabis in a communal setting open only for private members.
Employers do not have to permit the consumption of medical cannabis, and operating a motor vehicle or working in a safety-sensitive job while under the influence of cannabis is illegal. Registered cannabis patients are presumed to not be under the influence of cannabis despite the presence of metabolites and compounds as these elements may be present in a concentration too low to induce impairment. Measurements of THC and metabolites above 150 nanograms per milliliter of blood or urine are the legal definition of impairment. If, prior to the end of a workday, a registered patient's THC concentration tests at 150 nanograms or higher, the patient will be “presumed to have worked under the influence of cannabis.”
Cannabis possession is decriminalized for up to 4 ounces, or 113 grams, for residents; and 3 ounces, or 85 grams for nonresidents.
The bill specifies that nonresidents, including residents who have resided on the islands for less than 45 days, should keep the following available:
- A practitioner's certification of a debilitating medical condition;
- Another jurisdiction's certification of cannabis allowance, such as a state ID);
- Documentation showing that the nonresident is undergoing cannabis treatment at a Virgin Islands-approved facility.
Also in the anticipated rules from the OCR are regulations that permit a Virgin Islands-sponsored non-resident medical cannabis tourism program.
Home cultivation is permitted in one shared, enclosed, locked space for cultivation if parties residing together are cardholders. If patients have registered for home cultivation, the allowable amounts of cannabis can be “any combination of 12 plants, mature or immature,” and the cultivation allowance also will be indicated on the registry identification card. Property owners don't have to permit the smoking of cannabis, and landlords are not required to allow cultivation in a rental space.
Medical marijuana qualifying conditions
- Alzheimer's disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Chronic or severe pain
- Crohn's disease
- Hepatitis C
- Huntington's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Opiate use disorder
- Parkinson's disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe nausea
- Terminal illness
- Traumatic brain injury
- Ulcerative colitis
The OCR will be within the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs. The OCR also will be accountable for issuing licenses for all application types no later than 120 days after applications open.
Once applications are made available, there is a 25-day grace period after that date in which a written certification from a doctor or a copy of the completed application qualifies as registry identification.
Providers will need to demonstrate and offer a bona fide practitioner-patient relationship, which includes a consulting relationship during which they've taken patient history, assessed the current condition via physical exam, discussed the condition with the patient, and remain available/offer to provide follow-up care. Finally, all disability protections conferred upon patients by the U.S. Virgin Islands are extended regardless of one's status as a cardholder.
The U.S. Virgin Islands will have a laboratory to analyze and approve the safety and potency of cannabis. Cannabis producers may test their own products, but those tests do not replace official testing required to sell, transfer, or distribute medical marijuana. Further, medical testing labs are to be established in each of the two major districts of St. Croix as well as St. Thomas and St. John.
Licensing for growers, manufacturers, processors, retailers, delivery
The text of the bill put forth the following limits for application fees (which cannot be exceeded in the first two years). Fees for Certificates to Operate prior to commencing business operations are not to exceed the application fee for the license approved.
- Level I - Not to exceed 100 plants: $1,000; $500 for existing farmers
- Level II - Not to exceed 500 plants: $2,500.00, $2,000.00 for existing farmers
- Level III - Not to exceed 1,000 plants: $5,000.00, $4,500.00 for existing farmers
Dispensary License: $5,000
Cannabis Product Manufacturer License: $5,000
Research and Development License: $1,000
Approved Vendor Certificate: $1,000
- Unsuccessful applicants to receive 50% of application fee refunded
This page was last updated Aug. 6, 2019.