Major cannabis policy reform could be coming to the U.S. Virgin Islands under legislation unveiled this week.

Sen. Janelle Sarauw introduced two bills Oct. 24—one to legalize adult-use cannabis and another to expunge past cannabis-related convictions, according to The St. Thomas Source.

“It has been a very cumbersome process to get these bills to where they are today,” Sauraw, who is running alongside gubernatorial candidate Sen. Kurt Vialet to replace Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach in the Nov. 8 election, told the news outlet.

Bryan proposed his version of an adult-use cannabis legalization bill, the Cannabis Use Act, in 2019 and again in 2020, The St. Thomas Source reported.

Bryan’s re-election campaign scolded Sarauw earlier this month for not introducing her cannabis legislation earlier, after she promised to file the bills in 2021, according to the news outlet.

Meanwhile, Vialet has said publicly that he does not support adult-use legalization, The St. Thomas Source reported.

“Although there have been many politically driven false narratives about this cannabis legislation, I am proud of the work done to ensure that locals and minorities are not locked out of the industry and have an opportunity to participate in the economic potential of the industry—from farming, to dispensaries, to incentives for boutique labs, and micro energy providers,” Sarauw told the news outlet.

The legalization bill, called the Adult Use Cannabis Act, aims to “benefit local farmers, small business owners, medicinal and sacramental users, and the tourism industry by recognizing cultural and sacramental uses, creating business ownership and financial opportunities for local Virgin Islanders, increasing revenue to the Government of the VI by enabling sales to tourists,” according to The St. Thomas Source.

The expungement legislation would expunge the records of those convicted of cannabis-related crimes involving less than two ounces, the news outlet reported, and there would be no waiting period for petitioning the court for expungement.

The Virgin Islands is also in the process of launching a medical cannabis market; voters approved medical cannabis legalization in the 2014 election, and the Legislature passed the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act in 2018 to implement the program. The V.I. Cannabis Advisory Board (VICAB) approved the final draft rules for the program in August, and the market is expected to launch next year.

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