The Bill, which would allow the territory to capitalise on the growing medical marijuana industry, was passed in the House of Assembly (HoA) on June 30, 2020, and sent to the Governor's Office on July 27, 2020, for assent.
The Premier said the hold-up is an impediment to the local economy and pointed out that even as the VI's medical marijuana industry has been on pause, the UK is projecting billions for its own local marijuana industry.
“The very person that has not assented to it now is in the industry and projecting that somewhere around 2023 to 2025 how much billions of pounds they will make out of it but then come here and try to programme people’s minds that Fahie is trying to get you high and you must leave it alone,” Premier said on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, at the Elmore Stoutt High School grounds during his administration’s series of public meetings.
Premier Fahie continued: “Whenever the time comes for us to have economic power there is always going to be resistance, but you have to press forward because persistence is the formula I use in life. Persistence always beats resistance.”
It is not the first time that the Premier has hammered the governor for not assenting to this particular Bill.
He said the VI is losing revenue and job opportunities because of the delay.
And, while not specifically naming outgoing Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, the Office of Governor is the only authority to give assent to Bills or in this case not.
It was in a December 10, 2020, statement that Governor Jaspert said the VI must now work in tandem with the UK’s Foreign Secretary to establish a Cannabis Authority to monitor the industry in the territory.
Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert has claimed it s necessary for the VI Cannabis Licensing Act 2020 to be scrutinised by the UK.
While explaining the reason for the lengthy delay, Governor Jaspert had said it was necessary for this particular Bill to be scrutinised by the UK.
He explained: “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 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.”
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 United Nations 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.”
The VI Cannabis Licensing Act, 2020, if assented to, will allow the Virgin Islandst to capitalise on the growing medical marijuana industry.
Government has been adamant the Bill is not in any breach of international law or any other regulations.
“All we're trying to do is to get in the market with the right legislation and policies to get a fair share and open up new areas for plenty of employment for people,” Hon Fahie had said on the Honestly Speaking Show on January 12, 2021.
And while speaking in the House of Assembly on December 14, 2020, Hon Fahie said while the United Nations (UN), which has recently reclassified marijuana as a less dangerous drug, did not mention the VI, their policies matched up against the territory’s active and diligent drive to ensure that all the measures in the bills were compliant with international laws.
“So, we are not in violation and we kept saying that all the time, there is no legal violation so we couldn't understand why it was not being assented to,” adding that he who controls the economics, "controls your country.”