The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act (MCPCA) mandates the creation of the Office of Cannabis Regulation (OCR). Once formed, the office will draft, execute, and oversee all regulations pertaining to the production, sale, and use of marijuana. As you can guess, it’s a long list.
The Duties of the OCR
In general, the OCR will be in charge of turning the medical marijuana legalization into reality.
More specifically, the MCPCA made the OCR a division of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA), indicating it will be particularly focused on consumer and commercial regulations.
- Issuing medical marijuana cards (referred to as “med cards”) and ensuring their lawful usage
- Deciding which medical conditions are acceptable grounds for med card issuance or rejection
- Ensuring that the rights of med cardholders, both residents and nonresidents, are protected
- Regulating in-patient programs (for nonresidents without med cards from their home states)
- Establishing licensing requirements–application process, fees, regulations, zoning, security, etc–for cannabis businesses
- growing operations
- cannabis product manufacturers
- cannabis testing facilities
- cannabis clubs
- any other “approved vendor”
- Ensuring licensed businesses continue to follow rules
Quality Control Responsibilities
But since marijuana is marijuana, it’s slightly more complicated than that.
Since cannabis is going to be locally grown controlled substance, the OCR is also in charge of ensuring the quality of all marijuana products. Therefore, the OCR needs to set up a quality control system that includes everything from training the workforce to organizing labs.
- Establishing medical cannabis testing facilities with the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI)
- Forming a research and development program with business license holders and UVI
- Developing educational programs and certified courses with UVI to adequately train a local workforce
The Organization of the OCR
Cannabis Advisory Board
However, there’s an important step that must take place before the OCR is formed and functional. The VI Legislature must appoint the members of the Cannabis Advisory Board (CAB).
This nine-member board will include:
- The President of University of the Virgin Islands or a designee
- Department of Health Representative
- Department of Agriculture Representative
- USVI Tourism business or Association Representative
- One member of the Senate
- One member of the DLCA
- One heath-care practitioner
- One qualified patient
The CAB will then appoint the Director of the OCR, who will be the final member of the Board.
As a side note, the Senate was considering an amendment to the MCPCA that would add a representative from the Rastafarian community to the CAB.
Following up on this amendment, VIBE HIGH reached out to Sen. Terrance Positive Nelson, who informed us that the amendment did not pass.
Quarter Annual Reports
Once fully formed, the CAB will meet at least four times per year to oversee the OCR, as well as recommend new rules and regulations. In addition, the Board will submit annual reports to the USVI legislature.
These reports will contain recommendations and up-to-date information about the number of medical patients, care-givers, and cannabis businesses in the territory.
The OCR’s Funding
Of course, none of this is possible without money. So the General Fund is giving the OCR a $250,000 loan to get started. Then the OCR must repay this loan with revenue generated from business licensing and medical cardholder fees within two years.
However, only 25% of the cannabis tax revenue will go to the General Fund. Meanwhile, the rest will be divided among various departments and programs in the USVI.
A Lot to Be Done
Finally, the MCPCA states that the OCR must be operational by May, release the final rules in July, and begin accepting applications for licenses and med cards by August 2019.
In conclusion, the Office of Cannabis Regulation and the Cannabis Advisory Board face a huge task ensuring that medical marijuana gets off to a steady start in the Virgin Islands. We will be watching and reporting carefully about the people involved and the decisions they make.