The USVI Medical Cannabis Law has some discrepancies when it comes to residency requirements for Virgin Island Business Owners.
April 8, 2019
The VI Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act (MCPCA) sets out the initial rules for the medical marijuana industry in the USVI.
Defined within the MCPCA is the Virgin Islands residency requirement to start a cannabis business. If you have read the USVI cannabis law you may think you know the answer. But, how carefully did you read the bill?
Let’s take a dive into the MCPCA (USVI Act 8167), and see what it has to say. These excerpts are directly from the bill which VI Governor Bryan signed. Download the signed copy of Act 8167 at the bottom of our USVI Medical Cannabis Bill Guide.
The first mention of the rule falls under the “Definitions” section on page 4:
(c) “Bona fide Virgin Islands resident” means an individual who has maintained permanent residency in the Virgin Islands for a minimum of two years prior to submitting any application pursuant to this chapter.
So this section states, to qualify as a resident, one must live within the territory for 2 years.
Next, under the section “Cannabis Advisory Board to issue regulations for OCR”, page 11, you will find:
( 1) providing procedures and requirements for issuing cultivation licenses, dispensary licenses, cannabis product manufacturers licenses, research development licenses, and vendors licenses, including residency requirements of not less than five years and provisions for granting a waiver of the residency requirement;
Here we now have two conflicting sections in the bill, one stating 2 years, and the next 5 years. Now let’s continue.
Under the section “Registration of medicinal cannabis establishments” on page 27:
(4) The majority of principal officers and a majority of members of the board of directors and a majority of shareholders or owners, as measured by the total number of shares issued, or percentage of total ownership interests, are residents of the Virgin Islands, and have maintained such residence for 24 months before submitting the application.
Again this section sets out a residency rule of 24 months (2 years). Therefore there are two sections that state 2 years and one section with a 5 year requirement. Which is correct?
After posting our “5 Year Residency Requirement” infographic on Facebook, it was clear there’s still confusion. We received numerous comments and messages from residents about the discrepancies. Initially, we were confused as well, and learned of an amendment changing the bill upon further inquiry. Without the new revision of the bill, we were unable to verify these changes.
Finally receiving a signed copy of the MCPCA, we found the discrepancies. Reaching out to Senator Terrance Nelson, he was able to clarify the issue:
“If you look closer, you’ll see where one section states 5 years. In the haste the change was not recorded throughout. I state this because the legislative intent is 5 years. It was amendedprior to the last Session where it was passed.”
The intent of the Virgin Islands Legislature is the law, even with the discrepancies. Therefore the 5 year residency requirement is the law. Or is it?
While reading the 5 year rule passage from the MCPCA, you may have noticed:
residency requirements of not less than five years and provisions for granting a waiver of the residency requirement;
However, those exceptions to the residency requirement don’t exist yet. VIBE HIGH will be keeping a close eye on waiver rules, and who is exempt from the 5 year residency rules.
The MCPCA states that you must be a resident of the US Virgin Islands for 5 years to open a cannabis business. The CAB and OCR are able to produce waivers to forego this residency rule. You can read the rest of the up to date rules and regulations for cannabis businesses here.
About the Author
Sean McGuire is a cannabis advocate, web designer, and fire performer. Resident of St. Croix, VI since 2011, originally hailing from New Jersey. Sean contributes articles to VIBE HIGH and CannaCarib