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Commercial Cannabis Licenses Could Open By September

Joanne Moorehead, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Regulation, told the Cannabis Advisory Board that commercial sales licenses could be available before the end of summer. (Screenshot from Zoom meeting)

Cannabis regulators hope to start accepting applications from businesses hoping to legally sell cannabis products in the U.S. Virgin Islands by September, officials said Tuesday.

Joanne Moorehead, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Regulation, told the Cannabis Advisory Board there were still many steps before she could give an official date that applications would be open, however.

“I really hesitate to put time frames on when we can roll things out because there are so many moving parts,” Moorehead said. “I know everybody is eager to see those come on stream and we are definitely working towards that.”

The office had been working closely with the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department, she said, to assess what still needed to be done and what had for-sure been completed. Currently, the office offers cannabis licenses for adult caregivers, sacramental organizations and individual sacramental users, medical patients and medical practitioners. Two of these practitioners have received license approval, Moorehead said, and another license was pending.

The board approved a fee schedule for each license Tuesday: Medical practitioners will pay $250 and patients will pay $50; designated caregivers will pay $35 plus $20 per additional patient; at-home plant cultivators for sacramental use will pay $100.

Moorehead said the office was working on accepting credit cards but currently could only take paper check payments by mail or in person at the DLCA’s Sub Base office.

Part of the delay in offering and approving applications came from a lack of staff, she said. Regulations approved in April, years in the making, require close attention.

“We need to make sure all the back-end things are complete for that to happen. There are very extensive requirements and so we need to make sure we have the staff required to evaluate those applications and the documents that are sent in in those packages,” Moorehead said. “I’m hoping we can see that by the end of August, September. This is the goal. It might have to be shifted depending on some of the other pieces and some of the other things that need to be completed in order for us to roll those out.”

The office extended one job offer for an administrative officer with a proposed start date of Aug. 12. More interviews were planned for July 15 through July 22.

Board member Positive Nelson said work was progressing on expungements for people convicted of minor cannabis possession. A website was in the works. The law allows for several different marijuana convictions to be expunged. Nelson said the Expungement Taskforce was still deciding what to include and when.

“We decided to roll out with simple possession and we’re just waiting for all the technical things to get in place so we can have the site and the place and the process. Hopefully that should happen before the end of the month,” Nelson said.

An important element of newly legalized yet not fully legal marijuana in the territory is education, Moorehead said. Cannabis remains illegal until licenses to sell are issued.

“I think there is a lot of misunderstanding or misconceptions about what the cannabis laws and the various licensing and other laws are in the Virgin Islands and what that means for consumers and license holders. Obviously the education and outreach campaign will be a very key component to rolling out the full license schedule,” she said.

The board plans to publish a fee schedule this week and have another board meeting before the end of the month.

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