The passage of the legislation to usher in the Territory’s medical marijuana industry was followed by legislation aimed at making way for the expunging of the criminal records of residents of Territory who were charged with holding small quantities of recreational marijuana. The legislation that was moved by Deputy Premier Hon. Carvin Malone titled Drugs, Prevention of Misuse Amendment Act 2020 also enabled the possession of small quantities of cannabis for medical use.
While introducing the legislation, Hon. Malone declared: “The BVI is not going into the business of pot,” as he touted the fact that the House was able to pass the medical cannabis legislation minutes before he rose to speak. He further explained that the Drugs Misuse legislation was being amended to bring consistency with the Cannabis Licensing Act that was passed. Both legislations allow for the possession of not more than “a defined quantity” of Cannabis or Cannabis resin.
As it relates to the expunging provision of the Act, the Minister told the House, “Clause 28 provides for the provision of limited amounts of cannabis or cannabis resin allowing for the possession of cannabis of not more than that defined in the Act to be expunged from a person’s criminal record by the Commissioner of Police among other matters. Clause 28 B will provide for the eligibility of expungement; 28C would provide the factors to be considered by the court such as the petitioner’s age, their age at the time of the offence, the time since the conviction; and the adverse consequences the petitioner would suffer if the application was denied. Clause 28 D would provide for expungement of a criminal record of all official records of arrests, pleas, trial convictions; 28 E would provide for no liability or action shall against the Government.”
While explaining that the amendment was necessary to deal with the anomaly that would exist with the passage of the Cannabis Licensing Act, Hon. Malone said it has to do with the fact that many people were taken before the court and convicted for possession of very small quantities of cannabis such as the range of the volume the legislation sought to decriminalize. As such Hon. Malone said, “…the amendments proposed make it legal for persons who need the legal framework to access cannabis for medical purposes.”
It was stated that the legislation decriminalizes the possession of small quantities of medical marijuana for the purpose of illnesses such as glaucoma, cancer, etc. As he mentioned that currently, it is a crime to have marijuana or cannabis in one’s possession even if it is for medical reasons; the Minister said the legislation will make an exception. “We are seeking to say that the usage is not without reason – medical reason.”
Hon. Malone noted that there is currently a situation where persons who were convicted for having very small quantities of cannabis cannot have a police certificate and are barred from accessing simple things like employment. The provisions of the Act are geared at sorting this matter out, Hon. Malone stated.