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HomeNewsLocal governmentSenate Favorable for Reggae Star but Not So for Cannabis Board Nominee

Senate Favorable for Reggae Star but Not So for Cannabis Board Nominee

Jamila Christopher, Cannabis Advisory Board nominee, testifies at Senate hearing. (Photo courtesy V.I. Legislature Facebook live stream)

Jamila Christopher, nominated by the governor to join the Cannabis Advisory Board, told the Committee on Rules and Judiciary Friday that her experience as an official with the  Tourism Department would make her an asset to the board.

However, most of the committee did not feel that was enough, and she did not receive a favorable vote to move her nomination to the full Senate.

Christopher spoke about Buds and Breakfasts and how tourists arrange trips now for marijuana experiences.

Sen. Novelle Francis was concerned about other matters. He asked if she had read any articles relating to people moving to states where cannabis was legal and becoming homeless there. She answered no. He asked if she was interested in cannabis before agreeing to serve on the board. She answered no. He asked if she was asked to serve on the board. Christopher responded that her commissioner had asked her.

Sen. Milton Potter, one of the two Senators who voted for a favorable recommendation (the other being Angel Bolques), asked her if she had any concerns about bad health or mental problems associated with marijuana use. She answered that it would be the board’s duty to educate the public about such potential.

In her prepared testimony, she said, “It is my understanding as a member of the board that my primary responsibility is to provide financial and marketing data expertise regarding the potential impact of the cannabis industry on the tourism economy of the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Sen. Diane Capehart had to ask Christopher twice to pay attention, and Capehart mentioned that the nominee was looking at her phone during questioning. Capehart told Christopher that she should act as if the hearing were a job interview.

When she was questioned by Sen. Franklin Johnson, Christopher asked the senator to repeat a question a third time. Johnson said, “I have no further questions for the nominee.” The committee went into recess. When it returned, it voted against sending a favorable recommendation.

Capehart warned future nominees, “If you are not interested in serving on the board you are nominated to, tell the governor.”

The committee did favor an act honoring Vaughn Benjamin for his contributions to reggae music in the Virgin Islands and the world. The act would appropriate $45,000 to construct a Vaughn Benjamin monument and name the waterfront park west of the Marley Homes the Vaughn ‘Akae Beka’ Memorial Park.

Benjamin died in 2019 at the age of 50. Many of his songs have hit the Billboard Reggae Album Top 10 chart.

Sens.  Angel Bolques, Diane Capehart, Novelle Francis, Kenneth Gittens, Marise James, Franklin Johnson, and Milton Potter attended the hearing.

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