Connect with us

Government

USVI Cannabis Oversight Faces Delays Amid Quorum Challenge

Published

on

In a recent gathering of the V.I. Cannabis Advisory Board on Monday, the critical issue of board functionality took center stage due to the unexpected departure of Richard Evangelista from the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA). Evangelista’s transition from the former commissioner to the chief legal counsel for Governor Albert Bryan has inadvertently left the board without the necessary quorum for decision-making.

The absence of a quorum has severe implications: it impedes the board’s ability to cast votes, including crucial decisions on budget allocations. The urgency of addressing this deficit becomes apparent when considering the board’s exhausted funds, which had been originally designated for crafting regulations and guidelines in line with medicinal marijuana’s legalization.

The landscape changed significantly with the introduction of Act 8680, also known as the Cannabis Use Act, ratified in January 2023. This legislation superseded the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act from 2019, broadening the scope to encompass medicinal, sacramental, and recreational cannabis consumption. Additionally, the act mandates a comprehensive regulation of cannabis production, distribution, and utilization within the territory.

Catherine Kean, the board chair, emphasized the immediate need for more personnel to adequately address these new requirements. However, the inability to pass a new budget due to the quorum deficit has resulted in a gridlock. “The board finds itself in a predicament with limited options,” stated Ms. Kean.

Earlier in March, Kye Walker, who serves as the legal advisor to the governor on cannabis-related legislative matters, forewarned legislators that the timeframe for legitimizing cannabis sales would correlate directly with the financial backing given to the Office of Cannabis Regulations (OCR). Echoing the concerns about the board’s vulnerability, Evangelista had mentioned the board’s “barely adequate quorum.”

With the subsequent loss of Evangelista and the quorum, the board members, during Monday’s session, mulled over potential workarounds. One suggestion that surfaced was the possibility of integrating key office bearers, such as the acting DLCA commissioner, directly into the board, sidestepping the otherwise mandatory Senate confirmation.

As the cannabis landscape in USVI waits for clarity, the pivotal task of transforming what was once an illegal drug into a lucrative agricultural and economic asset for the territory remains in a state of limbo.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Government

Marijuana Regulations Approved in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Published

on

The U.S. Virgin Islands has taken a significant leap forward in its cannabis program with Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s approval of comprehensive rules and regulations governing marijuana use and distribution. The announcement was made during a press briefing on Tuesday by Government House Communications Director Richard Motta.

The newly sanctioned regulations establish a structured framework for both medicinal and adult use of cannabis. This dual approach aims to facilitate recreational cannabis use under regulated conditions while ensuring its availability for therapeutic purposes. According to Mr. Motta, the regulatory environment “provides special protections and benefits to medicinal cannabis users.”

Previously available in draft form for public comment, the regulations detail the process for obtaining various licenses and certifications necessary for participating in the cannabis industry. These roles include designated caregivers, prescribing physicians, licensees, third-party vendors, and consultants. Mr. Motta emphasized the importance of contacting the Office of Cannabis Regulation for those interested in getting involved.

Governor Bryan has expressed pride in the legislative and executive efforts that led to these comprehensive regulations. Notably, the Virgin Islands is the first U.S. jurisdiction to allow for the sacramental use of cannabis, recognizing its cultural significance. “With a closed economy such as ours, the governor believes it is important to provide opportunities for residents to participate in the program, whether as business owners, partners, employees, or patients,” added Motta.

In addition to facilitating legal cannabis use, the regulations address past injustices related to cannabis convictions. The new rules include provisions for the automatic expungement of certain cannabis-related crimes, enabling individuals previously marginalized due to past convictions to participate in the legal cannabis market. This initiative is part of a broader effort to promote social equity within the industry.

The governor’s approval marks the culmination of a long process of drafting and vetting. The regulations have been reviewed for legal sufficiency and are now ready for implementation. “For those of you who have been eagerly anticipating the rules and regulations for the adult use and medicinal cannabis rollout in the territory, they have officially been completed,” announced Motta.

Continue Reading

Government

Bryan Names Kevin Rodriguez as Interim Island Administrator for St. Thomas/Water Island District

Published

on

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has appointed Kevin Rodriguez, his former deputy chief of staff, as the Interim Island Administrator for the St. Thomas/Water Island District. This change follows Administrator Avery Lewis’s decision to pursue a seat in the 36th Legislature of the Virgin Islands.

Under Virgin Islands law (Title 18, Chapter 1, Subsection 2 of the Virgin Islands Code), candidates for the Virgin Islands Legislature must take a leave of absence from their government positions from the date they file their nomination petition until the general election concludes. Lewis filed his nomination papers on May 22, prompting the need for this interim leadership adjustment.

“Avery Lewis has been a dedicated and committed servant to the St. Thomas/Water Island district. Although we will miss his contributions in his current role, we support his decision to run for the Legislature and wish him success in his future endeavors,” Governor Bryan said.

Rodriguez’s appointment as Interim Island Administrator is backed by his extensive experience in public administration and his deep understanding of the community’s needs and challenges. Gov’t House officials believe his leadership will ensure a smooth continuation of services during this transitional period.

“I am confident that Kevin Rodriguez will effectively assist the residents of St. Thomas and Water Island during this time of transition. His proven record of effective management and community engagement makes him well-suited to advance our progress,” Governor Bryan added.

The governor expressed his gratitude to both Lewis for his service and Rodriguez for stepping into this vital role at a significant time for the islands.

Continue Reading

Government

Central Government Staff Honored at Employee of the Year Ceremony

Published

on

The Government of the Virgin Islands recently celebrated its most outstanding employees in a series of ceremonies on St. Croix and St. Thomas. More than 6,000 government employees were eligible, but only a select few were honored for their exceptional service and contributions to their divisions and the community.

At the ceremony in St. Croix, Division of Personnel Director Cindy Richardson highlighted the critical role these employees play in enhancing the operations of their agencies and improving the quality of life across the territory. She lauded the honorees for their exemplary service and professionalism.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. dispelled the notion that government workers are lackadaisical, instead praising the honorees for their dedication and impact. “You are pretty special,” he affirmed, acknowledging their positive influence within the community and among their colleagues.

Senate President Novelle Francis identified the honorees as the “cream of the crop,” and spotlighted Alfred Donowa, the employee of the year from the facilities management division in St. Croix. Donowa was praised for setting a high standard for his team. In St. Thomas, Adele Thomas was recognized as the employee of the year for her role as a receptionist in the Legislature’s offices.

The Lieutenant Governor Tregenza Roach also took part in the celebrations, commending employees like Carmen Francis from the Real Property Tax Division for her exceptional customer service, and Chris George from the Geographic Information Systems Division for his leadership.

The ceremonies not only recognized the honorees’ professional excellence but also their passion for their roles within the government. Lieutenant Governor Roach emphasized the importance of ongoing professional development to maintain job satisfaction and retain valuable staff.

The list of honorees included individuals from various departments such as Rachel Haverkorn of the Office of the Governor and Marianne Navarro from the Virgin Islands Lottery. From the Department of Agriculture, Maxine Richards was honored, and from the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Diana Gumbs took the title. Belgrave Stedman was recognized from the Water and Power Authority, celebrated for his achievements despite public skepticism about the utility’s successes.

These ceremonies serve as a vital reminder of the dedicated individuals who contribute significantly to the functioning and improvement of government services in the Virgin Islands.

Continue Reading

Trending