According to the UK government, “The BVI [British Virgin Islands] is separate jurisdiction from the United Kingdom and has its own laws. “In that case, one would think that a medical cannabis bill passed unanimously by the BVI legislature would have no problem with becoming law. The Territory’s governor – a Queen-appointed British official – has not yet approved the Cannabis Licensing Act 2020 despite his approval by lawmakers in June 2020. Approval of a separate bill to decriminalize the possession of small parts is also denied for amounts of cannabis.
If approved, the law would allow the possession of medicinal cannabis by adults. Depending on the amount, a different legal framework would apply. A self-declaration form would be sufficient for possession of one to 50 grams, while a medical approval would be required for quantities in excess of this range. Possession of a gram or less would be essentially unregulated. Visitors to the BVI could own cannabis under these conditions, an allusion to the BVI’s tourism industry. The law also provides a more permissive framework for CBD.
While the BVI constitution gives the governor the power to refuse to approve bills (in his role as representative of the Queen), that power is not exercised lightly. According to the spokesman for the local legislature, “in modern times the monarch, governor-general or governor I always agree to a bill that has been passed by the Volkshauson the advice of the then government, royal approval is considered a formality. ”According to the spokesman, the last time royal consent was withheld in Britain was in 1708.
On December 10th, Governor Augustus Jaspert declared that he “can only approve a law if it fully complies with international regulations,” such as the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. It is for this reason that the law has been “subjected to a comprehensive line-by-line review” in the UK to ensure compliance with the country’s international obligations. Jasper added that as a prerequisite for approval, the BVI and UK governments must enter into a letter of intent to transfer relevant powers from the Home Office in London (analogous to the DOJ in the US) to a new BVI cannabis licensing agency.
Some of Jasper’s comments on the matter suggest that he has personal concerns about the two proposed cannabis bills (“I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t take it fully into account”). Given the governor’s background, strong views on cannabis use wouldn’t be surprising. According to the BVI government, Jaspert was “Deputy Director in the UK Home Office, leading local policing and building public confidence in the police and government strategies to address the harm from alcohol and illegal drug abuse from 2007-2009 to reduce. During this time he also served as a judge in a criminal court in south west London. “
All of this said, Jasper’s most recent testimony made it sound like it wasn’t actually his phone call, indicating concerns at home. Furthermore, his hesitation about the bill may be due to Home Office mandarins flak rather than personal views about cannabis.
This would be cold comfort to Virgin Islanders: Either way, people they didn’t vote for uphold laws approved by their elected officials. It would also mean the troubles for the measure wouldn’t end with Jasper’s departure later this year. And hostility to the legalization of cannabis in London would be a bad sign of efforts in other UK areas, such as a law recently introduced in Bermuda (which would legalize recreational use).
Understandably, the Virgin Islanders are not responding well to the governor’s unprecedented raid. The legislature’s spokesman has called the denial of consent an “insult” and added that the legislature should have the power to “override an unelected governor if he refuses to approve a bill”. For his part, BVI Prime Minister Andrew Fahie said: “We have been proactive and diligent that all measures in the bill were in line with what the United Nations said and beyond so that we would not violate them. And that’s what we’ve been saying all along. There is no violation of law so we couldn’t understand why this was not consented to. He hopes that “this will not be done to stall legislation”. In any event, the delay in approving the law results in a loss of interest for investors, according to Fahie.
Raised on a neighboring Caribbean island that had its own problems with external forces (Puerto Rico), the story of the BVI’s Cannabis Act has an unfortunately familiar ring to it. It would be an exaggeration to instigate colonialism: the law was passed by an elected legislature, and dissatisfaction with refusal to give consent shows how rare such interventions are. While the BVI’s status as British territory limits its options, the territory is likely to be free to follow the example of other Caribbean islands that have gained independence from Great Britain. However, the legacy of the Caribbean’s intricate past is still reflected.
If this is somehow lost for Jaspert or the UK government, it is certainly not for Virgin Islanders. Whoever is to blame for the repeal of the law – the governor, London, or both – should heed the words of a statesman from another Caribbean nation who said: “The people of this great little democracy have spoken in a very dignified and eloquent language [and] The voice of the people is the voice of God. ”