Could US Virgin Islands See Tourism Boost if New Marijuana Bill Passes?

U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. resubmitted a revamped version of his proposed U.S. Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Act, which would enable travelers 21 and older to purchase marijuana in the destination.

While medical marijuana has been legal in the USVI since January 2019, government delays have hindered its implementation, according to Vibe High.

The revised act would be used to generate funds for the USVI’s Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) while also helping to jumpstart the economy when the coronavirus is suppressed.

It’s a move that travel agents and advisors have mixed feelings on, but many still see how it would be able to boost tourism if it passes.

“Honestly, the USVI [and other] Caribbean Islands would all benefit from legalizing weed. People are on vacation. They are there to relax. Drinking and weed are the go-to drugs,” said Katie Kapel of Mode Travel Agency. “I am not saying I necessarily agree with that, but that is the reality of legalizing marijuana. I mean, what country wouldn’t benefit from that from a travel and tourism standpoint?”

Ryan Doncsecz of VIP Vacations called the USVI news “all good to me,” adding that it would invariably help travel advisors make more sales while also putting a halt to “arresting people who are pretty much harmless.”

James Berglie of Be All Inclusive had a more tempered view. “I think overall our society is becoming more accepting of pot,” he said. “I don’t think it really has a big impact on where people choose to vacation, though. As we all know, in any destination just about any drug is fully available to those who will make it a priority to find them if they really want them.”

Sarah Kline of Time for Travel was more enthusiastic about the news. “I think legalizing marijuana in the USVI would be an enormous boost to that region. I live in Maryland where basically pot is legal and we have many clients ask about destinations that allow pot,” she said. “I’ve arranged trips for clients to Colorado and Alaska based on pot tourism. Jamaica is our No. 1 destination and for many, being able to buy and consume pot there is the big draw.”

In 2015, Jamaica approved a marijuana decriminalization law. Possession of two ounces or less is no longer considered an offense for which a person can be arrested, charged and tried in court.

Meanwhile, under the revised U.S. Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Act, adult-use permits of $25 would be required, and adult-use permit holders would not be permitted to grow cannabis.

Medical Cannabis Dispensaries would be allowed to sell no more than seven grams of medical cannabis, three grams of medical cannabis concentrate or 500 milligrams of medical cannabis products per day to non-residents.

For residents, the requirements would be one ounce of medical cannabis, 10 grams of medical cannabis concentrate or 2,000 milligrams of medical cannabis products.

“Consideration of this proposed bill is exigent given that the principal benefit of the revenues derived from [it] are directed to assisting the stoppage of the hemorrhaging of the GERS,” Bryan said, noting that 75 percent of the funds would be distributed GERS.

“It is also important that we utilize the present time while we are putting our economy back together in readiness for the post-COVID pandemic environment, to put this revenue mechanism in place,” he said.

All things considered, destinations that have legalized or decimalized cannabis are developing lucrative revenue streams from marijuana tourism—a case in point being Colorado.

For agents and advisors, the burgeoning marijuana tourism industry is a viable way in which to increase their revenues as well.

Arguably, it’s a win-win for travel advisors and destinations alike.

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