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How to Open a Dispensary in the U.S. Virgin Islands


Are you wondering how to open a dispensary in the U.S. Virgin Islands? This comprehensive guide provides up-to-date information on cannabis dispensary business opportunities and the legal requirements that must be followed when opening a dispensary in the territory.

The U.S. Virgin Islands, situated in the Caribbean Sea, is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Individuals over 21 years old are now legally permitted to consume marijuana for recreational and sacred purposes due to the recent legalization of cannabis in the region. This presents an excellent opportunity to enter the market as demand for high-quality cannabis products has surged. 

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. signed the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act (Act 8680) into law on January 28, 2023. The Act permits the use of marijuana by adults for medical, sacred, and other purposes, encompassing the production, distribution, and utilization of cannabis, offering additional economic opportunities for the residents of the Virgin Islands while generating more revenue for the government.

On September 8, 2023, the Virgin Islands Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) revealed that the Virgin Islands Cannabis Advisory Board (VICAB) has issued draft rules for both medical and adult-use cannabis markets. These regulations are open for public input until October 10 and are undergoing review by the Office of Cannabis Regulations, VICAB, and the Department of Justice.

To help ease the potentially complicated process of starting a dispensary, we’ll update this article regularly with any relevant news about the law to ensure you’re provided with the most up-to-date information.

Medical Marijuana 

On January 19, 2019, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. signed the Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act into law. The act was sponsored by Senator Positive T.A. Nelson. This legislation would establish a strong medical cannabis program for the Virgin Islands, which will be available to locals as well as medical tourists. Tourists visiting the US Virgin Islands who possess temporary medical cards have the opportunity to purchase a maximum of 3 ounces of medicinal cannabis within a 15-day period.

Patients who meet the requirements can submit an application to the Office of Cannabis Regulation (OCR) for a registration card that will permit them to cultivate medicinal cannabis, use it, and obtain it safely. To be eligible, individuals need to demonstrate that they suffer from a medical condition that meets the criteria for qualifying as incapacitating and that they have written certification from a healthcare practitioner with whom they have a legitimate connection.

The United States Virgin Islands approved legislation legalizing the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes; however, the implementing rules were never finished and so the law was never completely put into effect. The OCR had given its approval to the proposed rules and regulations for the MMJ sector in 2022, but those rules have not yet been finalized despite having been subject to a public review in September of the same year.

Medical Marijuana Program Opportunities

The Department of Licensing’s OCR is responsible for licensing cannabis testing facilities, cultivation facilities, cannabis product manufacturing facilities, and dispensaries. The fees for medical cannabis business applications vary from a maximum of $500 for a tier 1 license, allowing the growth of up to 100 plants for farmers, to a maximum of $5,000 for dispensaries, cannabis product manufacturers, and the largest growers. Unsuccessful applicants are eligible for a refund of half the application fees.

On August 10, 2022, the V.I. Cannabis Advisory Board (VICAB) in the U.S. Virgin Islands gave unanimous approval to draft regulations for their medical cannabis program. The draft was made publicly available by the Office of Cannabis Regulations on August 12. The text of the bill establishes application fee limits, which cannot be surpassed during the first two years. Furthermore, the fees for Certificates to Operate are capped at the approved license application fee before starting business operations.

Cultivation Licenses

  • Level I – Not to exceed 100 plants: $1,000; $500 for existing farmers 
  • Level II – Not to exceed 500 plants: $2,500.00, $2,000.00 for existing farmers 
  • Level III – Not to exceed 1,000 plants: $5,000.00, $4,500.00 for existing farmers 

Dispensary License: $5,000

Cannabis Product Manufacturer License: $5,000

Research and Development License: $1,000

Approved Vendor Certificate: $1,000

It is important to note that unsuccessful applicants will receive a refund of 50% of their application fee. 

Recreational Use Legalization

In November of 2022, Senators Janelle K. Sarauw and Angel L. Bolques proposed Act 8680, the Virgin Islands Adult Use Cannabis Act. Act 8680 was approved by a Senate vote of 11 to 1 on December 30, 2022. After arriving on his desk on January 9, Governor Bryan had ten days to either sign it, reject it, or let it go into force without his signature. A day before the deadline, Bryan put his signature on the measure.  

The Virgin Islands Cannabis Usage Act (Act 8680), signed into law on January 18, 2023, legalizes cannabis for adults to consume for medical, sacramental, and other purposes and sets guidelines for its cultivation, distribution, and consumption.  

The administration has said that the bill would ultimately raise more money and increase economic possibilities for residents of the Virgin Islands. The drafting and approval of legislation required for adult-use enterprises mean it may be some time before recreational business possibilities become accessible in the area. Regulations are needed as soon as possible under Act 8680.

Co-sponsor and ex-Senator Janelle Sarauw predicted it would take four to five years to implement the law’s provisions due to the absence of necessary infrastructure.

Key provisions of the USVI legalization statute are as follows:

Permits adults over the age of 21 to carry up to 2 ounces of marijuana for personal use, along with 0.5 ounces of concentrate, and 1 ounce of products like edibles for recreational, sacramental, and other purposes.

Manufacturers, sellers, growers, micro-growers, labs, and dispensaries will all need separate licenses and permits to legally operate in the cannabis industry.

Each of the territory’s major islands will have a maximum allowable number of licenses that OCR may issue.

From January 1, 2025, regulators will be able to issue more licenses if they perform a study showing that doing so is necessary to fulfill customer demand.

Within a year of the rules and regulations being implemented, the law mandates that the office begin accepting applications for licenses and permits.

Sacramental users of marijuana have the option of applying for their own growing licenses.

Cannabis Business Opportunities

Since the US Virgin Islands legalized adult cannabis use, businesses and sectors are interested in opening dispensaries. Until the Department of Licenses and Consumer Affairs releases its final recommendations, cannabis growers, producers, retailers, and distributors, as well as their service providers, might continue to consider how to participate and get licenses.

The Office of Cannabis Regulations (OCR) must establish regulations controlling all cannabis activities within 180 days of the Act’s approval. The OCR must accept license and permit applications a year after establishing these rules.

Following the application deadline, the OCR has 90 days to examine all submissions utilizing a Merit-Based Application Procedure. Successful candidates and their scores will be announced.

Only the best merit-based applicant, rated according to the OCR’s guidelines, will be granted authorization to operate a cannabis company on a given island.

Cannabis License Types

The OCR has the authority to grant the following licenses:

(1) Cannabis Cultivation License

(2) Cannabis Manufacturing License

(3) Cannabis Dispensary License

(4) Cannabis Research and Development License

(5) Cannabis Testing Facility License

There is a limit on the number of business licenses that may be issued on each of the three most populous islands in the Territory.

On St. Thomas Island: A maximum of seven licenses for cannabis dispensaries and up to fifteen licenses for cannabis cultivation.

On St. John Island: A maximum of three licenses for cannabis dispensaries and up to five licenses for cannabis cultivation.

On St. Croix Island: A maximum of seven licenses for cannabis dispensaries and up to fifteen licenses for cannabis cultivation.

Cannabis Business Fees

The maximum fees allowed for licenses are as follows:

(1) A Micro-Cultivation Permit cannot exceed $1,000.00.

(2) An Adult Use Lounge Permit cannot exceed $1,500.

(3) A Cannabis Cultivation License cannot exceed $20,000.00.

(4) A Cannabis Dispensary License cannot exceed $50,000.00.

(5) A Cannabis Manufacturing License cannot exceed $10,000.00.

Final Thoughts

In the upcoming weeks and throughout 2024, we anticipate numerous new developments that will impact the timeline, requirements, and licensing process for opening a marijuana dispensary in the US Virgin Islands. By subscribing to our US Virgin Islands Cannabis Mailing List (below), we will keep you informed about all relevant and hard-to-find news and updates related to legalization in the US Virgin Islands. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • What are the requirements for obtaining a marijuana business license and launching a dispensary in the US Virgin Islands?
  • How can I establish a medical dispensary in the US Virgin Islands?
  • When will recreational dispensaries be available in my locality?
  • What unique programs will be offered?
  • And more…

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Are you prepared to enter the cannabis business? Cannaspire offers a number of services to help you achieve success in the cannabis industry from getting started to obtaining a cannabis license. If you are prepared to move forward, book a consultation call now.