Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) has said the medical marijuana industry, which is being capitalised on by many countries, including the United Kingdom (UK), can be another major revenue earner for the Virgin Islands.
The UK; however, has refused to assent to the bill and continues to change its position as to why it is not being assented to.
Speaking on NDP Radio on Monday, May 3, 2021, Hon Penn, while not outrightly supporting the United Kingdom's controversial move to not assent to the Virgin Islands' Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Act, 2020, which was debated and passed in the House of Assembly (HoA) since last year, said the Premie's revenue predictions for the medicinal marijuana industry is inaccurate.
"The reality is that the revenues that the Premier is touting are impossible for us to get all those revenues from medical marijuana in the BVI. You look at what the actual budgeted numbers represent, and to try to create this smoke and mirrors that somehow by this not being enacted by the Governor is making us lose revenue, the numbers that have been touted is totally false," Penn remarked on the show aired on ZBVI 780 AM.
"In fact, the actual Bill speaks to an investor driving the process, so the investor will determine the strains that will be grown, they will determine the cost, and all those things are going to be managed by this investor. There are a lot of things to discuss, but mainly the issue on the finances is totally off."
The Opposition Leader reasoned that the industry would take time to blossom.
"I think it is being misrepresented, and the reality is it will take some time to get that industry up and running. So to recognise revenues in the range that they are discussing is smoke and mirrors and trying to play on emotions of the people of the territory."
He said he is for the assenting of bills once they meet the criteria, but the Fahie regime should not use "these false arguments" to justify their position.
Premier Fahie has previously said the government was expected to reel in millions of dollars through this industry and the UK holding up the VI's Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Act, 2020 is costing the government this revenue.
"I could only say that if it was passed already, we would have already been able to move towards having the three months crop because the planting of it takes three months and we would have already moved towards over one hundred jobs, and we would have already moved towards at least a couple millions of dollars in our economy," he remarked.
"Medicinal marijuana in the Caribbean is projected to be worth $2 billion, and in Latin America, the market is estimated to be worth $14 billion. BVI is moving to tap into this industry and develop to generate millions of dollars in revenue," Hon Fahie said during the Second Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly on Tuesday, November 19, 2019.