ST. THOMAS — A bill to legalize medicinal cannabis was kicked over to the Committee of Economic Development and Agriculture on Friday after V.I. lawmakers declined to put it to a vote.
Sen. Positive Nelson, who special ordered the bill during a legislative session, requested it be placed on the last block of the session’s agenda for a vote.
While the motion passed and the bill was placed on the agenda, Sen. Kurt Vialet made a motion to divert the bill to a committee.
Nelson, in turn, agreed to make an amendment to his motion and move the bill to the Committee of Economic Development and Agriculture.
Voting in favor of the amended motion were: Senators Marvin Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Jean Forde, Novelle Francis Jr., Alicia Hansen, Myron Jackson, Neville James, Janette Millin Young, Tregenza Roach, Sammuel Sanes, Janelle Sarauw, Brian Smith, Kurt Vialet and Nelson.
Voting against the measure was Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, a longtime opponent of legalizing marijuana.
Nelson’s bill — 32-0135 — intends to add a new chapter to the V.I. Code titled “The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act,” which, in turn, would allow for the medical use and regulation of cannabis and for medicinal cannabis provisional centers.
In an earlier interview with The Daily News, Nelson said federal legalization of marijuana use is inevitable, given the wave of states legalizing use of the drug in various forms and the benefits to local agriculture and the economy.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Nelson said. “Why should we restrict our pharmacies and other entities here that have an opportunity to gain, including farmers and all the ancillary businesses that can gain from this very profitable industry? It’s indisputable.”
Rivera-O’Reilly, also in an earlier interview with The Daily News, said that marijuana legalization would be detrimental to Virgin Islanders.
“I’m not convinced there is any broad medicinal value, and I believe that the use of marijuana or the legalization of marijuana for recreational use would be a disaster for our community, particularly for our young people,” Rivera-O’Reilly said. “I truly believe this is an initiative for people who want to get rich off the sale of marijuana and it’s also an initiative supported by adults who want to have the ability to smoke marijuana legally. And I believe these individuals are very selfish and are not considering the impact that they could have on our young people and society as a whole. And if I am the only voice making this argument, then that’s fine.”