British Virgin Islands

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Governor explains lack of assent Cannabis Licensing Act

Governor explains lack of assent Cannabis Licensing Act

Governor Augustus Jaspert has given an update on the Cannabis Licensing Bill, explaining why he hasn’t granted assent to the legislation, which elected leaders hoping for months now.
In a December 10 statement, Governor Jaspert said: “I am pleased to be at a point where we can move forward with these bills and I hope to see them become law in due course.”

But his statement doesn’t say he will give assent. Rather, it explains why the bills haven’t been assented to and what needs to be done for approval to be granted.

For the Cannabis Licensing Bill, Governor Jaspert said the BVI must work with UK officials to establish into law, a Cannabis Authority that will monitor the local industry.

Governor Jaspert said this is something that the BVI government has to do with the UK Foreign Office, adding that this is now out of his control.

“I have asked officials in the BVI and UK governments to complete this work together. As these practical steps will be between the BVI government and the UK government (not the Governor’s Office), I have passed this to the Foreign Secretary. Public officials in the UK stand ready to engage on this and once these steps have taken place, I hope assent can be granted,” Governor Jaspert explained

He further explained that right now, the UK Home Office acts as the licensing authority for narcotics in BVI, including medical narcotics. The Cannabis Licensing Act would change that, meaning the BVI would take over this responsibility from the Home Office.

“For this to happen, BVI and the Home Office need to work together to take preliminary steps to transfer the authority and enter into a Memorandum of Understanding, which is a binding agreement between the two Governments,” Governor Jaspert explained.

In his statement to the public, Governor Jaspert apologised for the length of time it took to give assent to these bills. He also gave an explanation, saying the bills have to received, “extensive line-by-line scrutiny in the UK”.

“International regulations on this matter are extremely complex and the bills have required a great deal of scrutiny and cross-examination with international laws. As BVI is an Overseas Territory of the UK, BVI is bound by the UK’s international obligations (such as those set by the United Nations) when it comes to the regulation of drugs. The UK has ultimate responsibility for ensuring BVI complies with those obligations and the UK is held liable if there is a breach in compliance,” the Governor explained.

He continued: “This process has been further complicated by the fact that cannabis has been a ‘live issue’ in the United Nations and with the World Health Organisation over recent months. It was most recently debated on the 2 December, where the UN voted to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention. The drug now sits within Schedule I alongside drugs such as cocaine and opium – recognition of the fact that it can have therapeutic benefits if used in a safe and controlled way, but nonetheless, remains a dangerous drug that has the potential to threaten public health. It has been important to follow these debates very closely in order to consider the possible implications for this bill.”

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P. J. O'Rourke
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