After returning to the territory from meetings with cruise industry executives, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. on Saturday signed into law several bills, including one that making medicinal cannabis accessible to qualified patients in the Virgin Islands.
Bryan signed into law The Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act, which will allow medicinal use and regulation of cannabis and the regulation of medicinal cannabis provisioning centers throughout the territory. It does not not authorize recreational use of marijuana.
The Legislature approved the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Positive Nelson of St. Croix, in December. Nelson was on hand to watch the governor sign his bill into law.
“I have approved the Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Care Act because it is a step in the right direction toward assisting Virgin Islanders suffering from autoimmune and other debilitating medical conditions,” Bryan said in a statement from Government House.
He said the legislation gives effect to a V.I. referendum on the ballot in 2014 where a majority of Virgin Islands voters approved medical cannabis.
“Since the Referendum, it is clear that marijuana-use policy in the United States has been changing rapidly in favor of medicinal and recreational use and will continue, even potentially on the federal level,” Bryan said.
Bryan said the Legislature recognizes the legislation needs refinement and amendment. He said it is essential to work out the regulatory and operational system in detail, including forms, fees and procedures.
Bryan vetoed Bill No. 32-0236, which seeks to establish a new category of dental professionals called Dental Therapists to be licensed by the Board of Dental Examiners out of concern for public health and safety.
Bryan also requested that the legislature act to repeal the recently enacted Act No. 8150, which provides for the Board of Dental Examiners to include dental therapist within their jurisdiction, since this category of skilled professional will not be defined or provided for in V.I. law.
Bryan said he was persuaded by the concerns raised by testifiers, including the American Dental and the V.I. Dental Associations, the V.I. Board of Dental Examiners and local dentists.
If it were enacted, “a dental therapist will be permitted to perform dental procedures with potentially life-threatening medical consequences and have the ability to perform irreversible surgical procedures, administer anesthesia and issue a prescription without the oversight of a licensed dental professional and after just three months training,” Bryan said.
Bryan approved several probate and finance related laws. He said one, Bill No. 32-0256, called the Finance Lenders Law, “will encourage and foster a sound economic climate in the territory by nurturing competition among finance lenders, protecting borrowers against unfair practices by some lenders and having due regard for the interests of legitimate and scrupulous lenders.”
Bryan approved Bill No. 32-0327 enacting the Uniform Non-Probate Transfer on Death Act, the Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act and Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interest Act and by addition chapter 60 to title 15 to enact the Uniform Custodial Trust Act and by amending title 289, chapter 21 by adding a subchapter II to enact the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act.
“This legislation will benefit senior citizens and lower-income families in the Virgin Islands, and enable an owner of real property to pass the property directly to a beneficiary on the owner’s death without probate, through a recorded transfer on death deed. The approval of this bill will assist families with avoiding or expediting the probate process which has prevented so many local families from dealing with family real property inheritance for generations,” Bryan said.
Bryan vetoed Bill 32-0351, the Virgin Islands Timeshare Resale Act, and requested that the Legislature act on a comprehensive overhaul of the timeshare sales regime to include ownership rights, sales protocols, licensing and regulation of salespersons, property taxation and reporting and foreclosure.