A marijuana decriminalization bill sponsored by Senator Terrence “Positive” Nelson has successfully passed the Senate, with all senators voting in favor of the bill. It is now headed to Governor de Jongh with the expectation of it being signed into law.
If signed into law, the bill would leave in place stiff penalties for individuals caught selling the drug and for those caught growing it in bulk. However, for individuals caught with less than 1 ounce of the substance, the penalty has been lowered to a fine of $100. Previously, individuals caught with less than an ounce of marijuana could face jail time.
In an interview earlier this month, Nelson, speaking with this reporter, said marijuana was not his “first priority,” but also defended his stance on why he believes marijuana is a plant that should not be illegal.
The bill went through without difficulty, although some senators expressed reservations on other marijuana considerations–like the drug’s full legalization in the territory–they all had good things to say about the decriminalizing of marijuana, as it would be, according to them, positive for young people who may have been caught with small portions of the drug. Previously, if caught with the drug, no matter the amount, the arrest would remain on one’s record.
Governor de Jongh is expected to sign the bill into law, as he previously approved a measure seeking to place on the November 4 ballot a question asking voters if they would like to see a medicinal marijuana industry established in the territory.
Senator Nelson has been the biggest supporter of marijuana legislation in the territory, pushing for it on four fronts: the decriminalization of marijuana, a hemp industry on St. Croix, medicinal use of marijuana in the territory and finally, the legalization of the drug for recreational use.