Miller Thomson advises the British Virgin Islands Government on the Cannabis Licensing Act, 2020

July 16, 2020 | Sandra A. Gogal | Toronto

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) government on June 30, 2020 legalized the cultivation, manufacturing and sale of cannabis for medical and therapeutic use with the passing of the Cannabis Licensing Act, 2020 (the “Act”). Consistent with the direction of other progressive countries, the BVI has chosen to strictly regulate the use and possession of cannabis through a dedicated Virgin Islands Cannabis Licensing Authority. Residents and visitors can purchase 50 grams or less of cannabis through licensed Medicinal Dispensaries.

Miller Thomson, led by Toronto partner and Cannabis industry group lead Sandra Gogal, along with Courtney Betty, an independent Senior International Cannabis Advisor, were retained to advise and assist the BVI in drafting a licensed medicinal cannabis framework that balanced public health and safety and the desire for a commercialized cannabis industry. It was imperative that the legislated framework continue to meet the obligations under International Drug Conventions but reflect the social and economic realities of the BVI.

The Act’s robust licensing regime will provide preferential opportunities for local farmers while creating a climate attractive for foreign investors. Unlike other countries, the legislation defines cannabis as having greater than 1 % THC, to facilitate the creation of an industry focused on high quality strains of cannabis that have real therapeutic and medicinal value. CBD products containing less than 1% THC will be regulated under existing local laws with oversight by the Authority. The Act further contemplates the creation of an International Registry for cannabis products facilitating international recognition and trade with its existing network of trade partners.

“The assistance of our advisors, Sandra Gogal and Mr. Courtney Betty, in drafting the Cannabis Licensing Act was invaluable”, states the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley, Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture for the BVI. ”With their guidance, we have developed medicinal cannabis legislation that is uniquely ours, and will help to open up economic development opportunities for our citizens in areas such as the agricultural, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries.”

“Rather than duplicating the legislation of other countries, the BVI government took an innovative and out-of-the-box approach to ensure that they clearly met their objectives of addressing their obligations under international treaties for the prevention of drug misuse and trafficking, being responsive to recent court decisions reflecting human rights and privacy, being adaptable to scientific advancements and studies relating to the medicinal qualities of cannabis, and being progressive with respect to innovation and trade, all with a view to protecting the health and safety of the residents of the BVI”, says Sandra Gogal.

The Cannabis Licensing Act, 2020 received its final passing in the House of Assembly on June 30, 2020 and is awaiting Royal Assent.