The U.S. Virgin Islands is one step closer to launching its medical cannabis market after regulators approved draft rules for the program Aug. 10.

The V.I. Cannabis Advisory Board (VICAB) approved the final draft regulations at its virtual meeting Wednesday in a unanimous vote, according to the St. Thomas Source.

The rules will be posted on the Office of Cannabis Regulations’ website Aug. 12, launching a 30-day public comment period that will close on Sept. 11, the news outlet reported. A town hall meeting is scheduled for Aug. 31 to help gather public input.

RELATED: U.S. Virgin Islands Officials Working Toward Approval of Medical Cannabis Regulations

The U.S. Virgin Islands legalized medical cannabis in 2014 through a voter-approved referendum, and the Legislature passed the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act in 2018 to implement the program. Gov. Albert Bryan signed the legislation into law in 2019, and the VICAB held its first meeting in January 2020.

The medical cannabis regulations were supposed to be in place within 120 days of the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act being signed into law, but efforts to get the program up and running were delayed as the advisory board was formed and an executive director was appointed, the St. Thomas Source reported. Hannah Carty accepted the executive director role in September 2021, jumpstarting the program.

The VICAB also unanimously approved the Office of Cannabis Regulations’ three-year plan at Wednesday’s meeting, according to the St. Thomas Source. Applications for cultivation licenses will be available starting Oct. 3, the news outlet reported, followed by research and development licenses Oct. 26, manufacturing licenses Dec. 5 and dispensary licenses Dec. 27.

Regulators will release a request for proposals for laboratory facilities Oct. 12, the St. Thomas Source reported, and they will begin accepting physician registrations Nov. 3, followed by patient applications Dec. 14.

The applications for each license type will remain open a month from their start date, according to the news outlet, and once each application window closes, the Office of Cannabis Regulation will select a review committee to score the applications.

Once the applications have been scored, regulators will publish a list of qualified applicants whose scores exceed 80%, the St. Thomas Source reported, and a lottery will select the final license winners.

The district of St. Thomas/St. John will license up to eight level one cultivators in St. Thomas and four in St. John, according to the news outlet, and the St. Croix district will license up to 12 level one cultivators.

“The exact number of licenses to be released on an annual basis will be determined by the Cannabis Advisory Board,” Carty told the St. Thomas Source in March. “They shall not release licenses that supersede the amounts allowed by 19 V.I. Code; Chapter 34.”

Carty added that the VICAB has the authority to increase or decrease the number of licenses as demand becomes clearer over the course of the next two to three years.

The U.S. Virgin Islands’ medical cannabis market is expected to launch in March or April 2023.

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