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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, December 4, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesHow the Virgin Islands Got It Right, Sort of...

How the Virgin Islands Got It Right, Sort of…

Dear Source:

With the passing of the referendum on legalized production and cultivati of Hemp, the Virgin Islands has taken great strides to diversify its economy and potentially improve the lives of its citizens. Industrialized hemp is not only historically viewed as a cash-crop second only to tobacco, but an environmentally friendly way to produce and sell a variety of goods on the international and American Market. With the Territory focused on “Green” initiatives, one can view this as a positive step in the right direction. With that said, it is my opinion that the Virgin Islands has missed a golden opportunity to further increase its financial independence and well-being…
As a native Virgin Islander living in California, I can attest to the benefits of the passing of CA Proposition 215. This ballot measure exempts patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate Marijuana for medical treatment (as prescribed by a medical doctor) from criminal laws which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of Marijuana.
Essentially, this law legalized the creation of the Medical Marijuana industry. Patients who receive a recommendation from a licensed physician are allowed to purchase Medical Marijuana at dispensaries and from licensed caregivers. Marijuana is proven to be much less harmful than alcohol (50,000 deaths/year) and tobacco (400,000 deaths/year) and States are no longer willing to be burdened with the cost of incarcerating their population for minor, marijuana-related infractions.
Marijuana prohibition costs the United States an estimated $10 billion dollars a year and results in the arrest of 750,000 individuals—far more than the total of all violent crimes combined.
A recent UCLA study found that there is no correlation between the legalization of Marijuana and an increase in crime. In fact, it might have the potential to lower the crime rate, as observed in the Nation’s second largest city, Los Angeles, which is currently experiencing a 60-year low in violent crime. With that said, let us focus on the economic benefits of this industry throughout California and the potential impact it would have for the Virgin Islands.
In Los Angeles, the Medical Marijuana industry generates roughly 3 to 5 billion dollars per year (national estimates range from 50-100 billion) which is equal to roughly the entire Gross Domestic Product of the Virgin Islands. Needless to say, the national Marijuana economy is larger than our own. This should not be perceived as a threat, but an opportunity for growth. In business, where there’s demand, there’s profit. Virgin Islanders simply need to ask themselves: Do you want more businesses to open? Do you want local entrepreneurs to prosper? Do you want more tax revenue to help benefit our education system? Do you want more jobs for our residents? Do you want to help lessen the scope of a thriving black market? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the aforementioned questions, you missed an opportunity create a pathway of self reliance for the Virgin Islands.
Hemp production will allow for us to sell goods and produce a viable replacement for harmful products that poison our islands and populate our landfills, but this is only half of the equation. We must be progressive in our decisions and be open to all possibilities. Three states have recently passed laws legalizing Marijuana for recreational purposes and are expecting an economic boom to begin shortly….why not us?
In my opinion, the Virgin Islands should adopt a hybrid model based on that of California and Colorado. We should allow for the regulation of Marijuana for medical, not recreational purposes. The local government should tax the sale of all derivatives of this industry and use that money to improve our society. Doctors can realize a new revenue stream through providing recommendations, dispensaries can allow for a new class of entrepreneurs to surface, people with ailments such as AIDS, Cancer, Anorexia, and even anxiety can explore an alternative form of treatment, unemployed individuals can now search for jobs that are currently non-existent, and our school system can use a desperately-needed influx of revenue. It’s not about ‘getting high’ but rather a realization that society must evolve.
The Virgin Islands has always perpetuated an image of a progressive culture and agenda, yet we fail to realize the benefits and act. Since we constantly yearn for an alternative to a “tourism only” economic model, Medical Marijuana would allow us the financial freedom to use tax revenues gained to improve ourselves, rather than waiting for handouts from the Federal Government. If ‘we run tings’ then by all means, let us practice what we preach, not let ourselves be crippled by fear and ignorance and forgo an opportunity to take control of our destiny. As a concerned citizen, I commend the voters of the Virgin Islands for taking a step in the right direction. Let’s continue the dialogue, take a page from President’s Obama’s campaign, and continue to move forward, not back.

Editor’s note: Whitney McFarlane is a 26 year old Virgin Islander that lives in Santa Barbara, Calif. and is a National Sales Director for a Financial Software Company. He wrote his last op-ed piece about school violence in 2005.

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