Years later, medical cannabis regulations still languishing | News | virginislandsdailynews.com – Virgin Islands Daily News

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Scattered clouds with the possibility of an isolated thunderstorm developing overnight. Low 79F. Winds E at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Updated: September 26, 2022 @ 1:03 am

The approval process for proposed medicinal cannabis regulations has stalled yet again, and it remains unclear when the 2019 law legalizing medical use of the drug will finally be implemented.
The board held a Town Hall meeting on Feb. 28 and published the proposed rules online for public review.
Board chair, Catherine Kean, said at the meeting that members anticipate holding another public forum in 30 to 45 days to discuss the draft rules, which are still under review by the V.I. Justice Department for legal sufficiency.
Once that review is complete, the board will meet to approve the proposed rules and issue a press release notifying the public of their availability. There will then be a 30-day public comment period, after which the board will review the comments and meet to approve the final rules and regulations.
“We anticipate that it will take about 55 days once we receive legal sufficiency to begin the roll-out of applications,” Hannah Carty, executive director of the V.I. Office of Cannabis Regulation, said at the meeting.
It’s been nearly 80 days since the town hall meeting, with no further updates from officials.
On Tuesday, Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Richard Evangelista referred questions from The Daily News to Carty.
Carty said in an email Wednesday that there is currently no set timeline for completion of the regulations.
“The Rules & Regulations file is in its final stages of review in conjunction with DOJ. We have taken some additional time to incorporate some of the initial feedback we have received from the community and amendments that were considered since joining the national Cannabis Regulators Association,” Carty wrote.
She noted that the 30- to 45- day estimate for the next meeting was “estimated based on the working with the DOJ, but there is a lot more information to be reviewed.”
“It takes time and is a very detailed process. We only get one chance to get the rollout correct, and we need to be as thorough as possible. This has been a lengthy process, but we will all be more appreciative of a product that is cohesive and well-thought out,” Carty wrote.
The board, she added, does not currently have a quorum and “is awaiting the appointment of Commissioner Evangelista to the Board since sending his paperwork down to the Legislature.”
“This does not preclude the CAB from continuing to work. They have had monthly Executive Session meetings to go over some of the inquiries from DOJ and OCR and to follow up on the progress of the development of OCR. Once we have completed the review, a meeting will be scheduled. Finally, the public will be notified and will have 30 days to comment,” Carty wrote.
The Daily News asked Carty and V.I. Justice Department spokeswoman Sandra Goomansingh to explain the legal basis that would allow the board to hold secret meetings and take actions without a quorum.
“As mentioned in the Town Hall meeting, with the guidance and approval of the DOJ, CAB can continue to meet and make decisions which can then be signed into effect once quorum is achieved. Quorum does not stop or preclude the advancement of the work CAB is doing,” Carty wrote in a response Wednesday. “The CAB has been involved in highly concentrated work of finalizing the Rules & Regulations, which will be concluded, hopefully soon.”
On Thursday Carty had a different response.
“I misstated and need to correct my previous communication with you. Below I am specifically responding to the questions you asked, and please consider these my official, corrected responses,” Carty wrote.
The “corrected” responses contradicted the earlier assurances that the board had the legal authority to meet and make decisions without a quorum, or public notification.
“The Cannabis Advisory Board does not currently have a quorum; however, Commissioner Evangelista’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for June 9, 2022 which will mean that, if confirmed, the Board will officially have a quorum. Once this is completed, and the Rules & Regulations are completed, we will schedule a Town Hall meeting similar to the one held in February,” Carty wrote.
In addition, Carty wrote that, “There have been no formal meetings of the Board as we cannot have any until we have a quorum. The CAB has been involved in highly concentrated work of finalizing the Rules & Regulations, through Informational Sessions. No voting has taken place.”
Goomansingh and Attorney General Denise George did not respond to a request from The Daily News for information about the board’s legal authority to hold monthly executive sessions without a quorum.
In a 2014 referendum, 56% of Virgin Islands voters favored legalization, and the Legislature passed a medical cannabis bill in 2018.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signed the bill into law in 2019, but the V.I. Cannabis Advisory Board didn’t hold its first public meeting until a year later, in January 2020, and implementation of the law has been repeatedly delayed.
To read the proposed rules and for more information, visit ocr.vi.gov, call 340-714-9755, or email info.ocr@ocr.vi.gov.
— Contact Suzanne Carlson at 340-714-9122 or email scarlson@dailynews.vi.
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