Pubdate: Wed, 23 Jul 2014
Source: Virgin Islands Daily News, The (VI)
Copyright: 2014 Virgin Islands Daily News
Author: Aldeth Lewin
Page: 4


Sen. Terrence Nelson once again is pushing for a ballot referendum
involving marijuana, this time to get voters' opinions about
legalizing medical marijuana in the territory.

The bill will be heard in the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee at
9 a.m. Thursday on St. Croix.

Two years ago, in the 29th Legislature, Nelson put forth two measures
for ballot referendums on marijuana. One was to ask voters whether
they would support legalizing medical marijuana, and the other was to
ask voters whether they would support legalizing the production of

The hemp legislation passed and did make it onto the ballot in
November 2012, and 60 percent of those who voted on the referendum
voted "yes" to consider legalization of industrial hemp.

Legislation to legalize industrial hemp production in the Virgin
Islands is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Committee on Economic
Development, Agriculture and Planning on Aug. 11, according to Nelson.

The legislation for the medicinal marijuana referendum did not pass
out of the Senate, and the question was not on the ballot.

The measure to be considered Thursday is Nelson's second attempt to
put a referendum on the General Election ballot in November on medical

According to the bill, the referendum question would be: "Should the
Legislature enact legislation that allows for the licensing and
regulation of medicinal marijuana patients, care-givers, cultivators
and distribution centers?"

Voters would be able to check "yes" or "no" to answer the

In the bill's whereas clauses, it notes that 21 states already permit
the medicinal use and cultivation of marijuana under certain
circumstances and 12 more states have pending legislation to legalize
medical marijuana.

"The ball is already rolling. It's up to us to just catch it," Nelson

He said he hopes his colleagues will support the measure, which is
only the first step in the process.

"I'm hopeful that as our society has a better understanding of the
medicinal values, that the members of the Legislature have a better
understanding as well. This measure is merely asking to put the
measure in front of the people," Nelson said.

"The question that's really to be answered by all of us, is are we for
helping sick people, or do we prefer to lock them up with murderers,
rapists and hard criminals?" Nelson said. "There are sick people in
the territory right now who have to illegally acquire marijuana for
medical use."

He said Thursday's hearing will include testimony from doctors who
administer chemotherapy to cancer patients as well as from investors
who understand the economic gains the territory could make from
medical marijuana.

Nelson said a lot of people fear that legalizing medical marijuana
will create a free-for-all situation in the territory, but it will be
regulated by the government.

"Legalized medicinal marijuana does not meant that everyone can grow
marijuana and sell marijuana just as they wish," he said.

"I just wish people would realize that this is a credible opportunity
for us and stop thinking so narrow-minded about drug use," he said.

A third marijuana-related measure - to decriminalize possession of
marijuana - currently is pending in the Senate Committee on Public
Safety, Homeland Security and Justice.

That bill last was heard in October, when it was held in committee for
further review.
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