The United States Virgin Islands has joined the list of places that have decriminalized marijuana possession. The Senate body voted to override a veto previously set in place by former Gov. John De Jongh whose last day in office was Jan. 5. According to the new regulations, individuals over 18 who have less than 1 ounce of weed will only be fined between $100 and $200 instead of facing jail time. Minors under the age of 18 will have to complete a drug awareness program within one year of the charge as well as having their parents or guardians notified of their offence.
The penalties for possessing more than ounce of cannabis still involve incarceration. The first time a person is caught with over an ounce, they’re subject to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. On the second offense will incur a $10,000 fee and two years in jail. Cultivating and distributing marijuana is also considered a punishable offense and can earn people anywhere from five to 15 years in jail and up to $200,000 in fines. Specific regulations can be found here.
Senator Terrance Nelson, the sponsor of the bill, believes that the decriminalization of marijuana will not only benefit residents of the islands but also help alleviate the financial burdens associated with repeatedly penalizing people with jail time for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.
“It will go a long way in easing cost on the judicial system and judicial process,” he said.
Under the new regulations, hash and concentrates will be treated similarly to marijuana. Unfortunately, paraphernalia isn’t included in the new policy, which means anyone in possession of a device that assists in the cultivation, distribution, inhalation, or ingestion of weed can still garner jail time and a fine.
Although decriminalization is a far cry from full-on recreational legalization, it’s definitely a teeny tiny step in the right direction and a sign of the ever-changing social and political climate around the world. Another U.S. territory made changes to their cannabis regulations when voters in Guam approved Proposal14A in the general election last November. The proposal legalized medical marijuana for qualifying residents on the island.
What other places in the world should decriminalize cannabis? Share with us below.