As the British Virgin Islands moves to decriminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis and erase some previous convictions, the United Kingdom is having doubts about doing so given the BVI’s role in drug transshipment.
The Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act 2020 which would decriminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis and erase some previous convictions has been stuck with Governor Augustus Jaspert for final approval for months.
“This bill has been given careful consideration to ensure it is fully compliant with international regulations, in consultation with the UK Home Office and with a close eye on evolving international law,” the Governor stated.
He explained that these considerations have been complicated by the increasing number of illegal drugs seizures that have taken place in the BVI in recent months, particularly the record-breaking seizure of more than 2,300 kilos of cocaine in early November.
“Criminal investigations are ongoing, but these instances show that a significant scale of illegal drug trafficking is taking place here. Ministers in the UK are concerned by this and by BVI’s vulnerability to regional organised crime, especially given that the UK holds overall responsibility for BVI’s security and international relationships. I know many others, including myself, share these concerns,” the Governor shared.
He explained that the UK Foreign Secretary wants to give further consideration to this bill to explore the possible effects of decriminalising the possession of a recreational drug – and thereby potentially increasing its trade – at this time.
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“He has therefore instructed me to pass the bill to him for assent, so that he may consider alongside wider factors including the security of the region, the UK’s work in the region and the recent United Nations’ decisions. I expect that once BVI’s licensing authority is fully operational in regulating the medicinal marijuana industry, some of these concerns relating to recreational drugs may be mitigated,” the Governor said.
The BVI Constitution gives the Foreign Secretary the power to instruct a Governor in this way.
Governor Jaspert stated that the Foreign Secretary does not use this power lightly, but believes this bill requires further consideration at the most senior levels in London in order to reassure the people of BVI and international partners.
“His decision to do so is a reflection of the UK Government’s belief that the safety and security of BVI is paramount, which I fully support. It is only right that the highest levels of diligence and care are exercised when it comes to the lives and livelihoods of Virgin Islanders,” the Governor indicated.