Even as government officials and social commentators have raised concerns over drugs and substance abuse in the Territory, a total of 282 entities were licensed to sell alcohol to Virgin Islanders (VI) in 2019, according to the 2020 Standing Finance Committee (SFC) report.
While the report did not indicate how much of the licences were temporary or permanent, or details on the name of the entities receiving the licence, it stated that another 35 had made applications to sell liquor in the same year.
Under the Magistracy deliberations of the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) held between November 20 and 29, 2019 at the Office of the House of Assembly in Road Town, Tortola, Court Manager, Mrs Annette Williams-Sylvester revealed the statistic as part of a comprehensive presentation to the Committee which further highlighted that the department made some $489,439.32 as of November 13, 2019.
For a small country; however, the statistics may seem worrying with regards to ease of access to alcohol in the VI. Research shows that persons who abuse alcohol are also more likely to abuse other substances, including illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana.
In addition, the statistics at the Magistracy would not account for the number of entities selling alcohol illegally. This could mean a much higher figure than the total licenced.
High Drug Use in VI - Claude O. Skelton-Cline
On the October 8, 2019, edition of his Honestly Speaking show, Mr Claude O. Skelton-Cline declared that drug use amongst men and youths in the Virgin Islands was now at a staggering high.
"There's a high use of drugs. Marijuana is one of the chief forms but is no longer limited to just that, and let's be honest... clearly because where we are located in the Caribbean... drugs have always been an issue but we have never been a people who use drugs," he told his listening audience.
"I am deeply concerned about the social challenges that we are going to face when our young people in a disproportionate fashion get hooked on this stuff and the havoc it creates to them and their families," Skelton-Cline said.
Weeks later, Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon Carvin Malone (AL), in addressing claims of high drug use in the Territory, said his ministry is looking to combat the social issue through a number of early intervention programmes that can come into effect before full drug addiction kicks in.
The Minister was at the time speaking on the Tuesday, October 22, 2019, edition of 'Honestly Speaking' when he was asked to input on the alleged high use of drugs, particularly marijuana among the Territory's youths.
As part of the liquor licencing process, entities are required to complete an application form and submit to the Inland Revenue Department, Police Department, Magistrate Court, Fire Department, Town and Country Planning as well as Environmental Health Department and Trade Department.
They also have to state the intention to sell intoxicating liquor in two consecutive publications of any newspaper published in VI at least two weeks prior to licensing day.