Medical Use of Marijuana Gets Some Attention

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In consideration that a marijuana themed event will be held in the Territory next month Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith was asked if Government would consider the medical marijuana industry and he replied favorably.

The event referred to will be held at Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke and is promoted as “Extrava-Ganja 2018: A Virgin Islands Hemp and Cannabis Festival.” The festival is scheduled for 7 July.

In response to questions on the subject of marijuana Premier Smith told reporters: “I think we are at the moment discussing whatever possibilities there are from the use of marijuana.”

“We’ll look at the possible benefits that may come out of medical marijuana. And when I say medical, I mean the medical use of marijuana and producing it for that particular purpose.”

BVI laws currently make possession of marijuana a crime and Premier Smith admonished this fact as he spoke of possible plans for the herb: “Certainly we know that the use of marijuana for trafficking, for sale to other persons is certainly an offence. Even for personal use currently it is an offence but there are areas we will be reviewing and seeing what really is necessary from the point of view of health and safety of people in the country.”

The Premier is not the only legislator who believes marijuana should be considered. In fact, Deputy Premier and Minister Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Dr. The Hon. Kedrick Pickering who is also a medical doctor told the House of Assembly on 8 March that the Territory should consider the possibility of growing medical marijuana.

The Deputy Premier announced that the subject is one to be explored as Government moves to take the agriculture sector to the next level. Hon. Pickering disclosed that a number of Caribbean countries have made the move and others are looking into the prospects of medical marijuana and he noted that the BVI might decide to consider the subject.

“To be absolutely clear the issue is a very current topic and based on what is taking place in the general region there is a rush by several Caribbean countries to get in on the economics of producing cannabis for export to especially Canada. The economics of it dictates that we should be mindful of it and look into the possibilities,” the Minister for Natural Resources said.

However, Dr. Pickering stressed that neither the government nor his Ministry had taken a position on the subject and have not even had discussions on the matter. In providing clarification on the marijuana point Hon. Pickering said: “I don’t think myself or this government has made any decision about the whole issue of medical marijuana…”

Dr. Pickering further stated that the consideration for medicinal plans does not only extend to marijuana but other plants found in the Territory: “Another avenue of development in the agri-business industry is the whole concept in the research in the local medicinal plants. We know that in the BVI there is a vast array of bush medicines; the time is now right for us to explore these opportunities and develop this sector of our agri-industry. This includes exploration into the opportunities that exist in the production and the distribution of medical marijuana.”

Old Discussion

Back in 2014 the question whether government would consider legalizing marijuana in any form was put to the Ministers of Government during the 3 November 2014 NDP radio program.

During the program a resident boldly enquired about the Government’s position on the medical marijuana industry. He told the panel of Government Ministers: “We are living in a time of the Virgin Islands history when we have two doctors – one is the Premier, and one is the Deputy Premier. The doctors in the world are trying to legalise medical (use of) marijuana, but we are not hearing anything from the Government here.”

In response to the caller’s statement, Premier Smith recommended that more information be obtained before medical marijuana use is advocated in the community. In fact, the BVI Leader said: “In many other areas it is suggested that there are also some benefits, but these are benefits which have to be well selected and carefully chosen. I think that it is something that we as a community, we as a medical community will have to study carefully before we get around to using those in the community or hospital services.”

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