DeJongh approves referendum on hemp
Published: September 12, 2012
Font size: [A] [A] [A]
ST. THOMAS - Gov. John deJongh Jr. on Tuesday gave a green light for a November referendum on whether the territory should pursue legalizing industrial hemp.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Terrence Nelson, passed the Senate in August on a 10-4 vote. It offered to present the following question to voters on the November general election ballot:
- "Are you in favor of the Legislature enacting legislation that allows for the production, processing, manufacturing and distributing of industrial hemp in the Virgin Islands?"
A referendum is a form of direct democracy that puts a question on the ballot to be voted yes or no by the entire electorate.
Nelson has said the hemp bill is a non-binding referendum, which means it does not require any action by a governmental body, which can interpret the results and may even choose to ignore them.
However, the final version of the bill was amended to add a section that states "the Legislature shall not be required to take any action toward the licensing of industrial hemp production in the territory unless" a majority of November voters cast a vote on the question and a majority of them vote in the affirmative.
It was unclear at pres time whether the word "unless" in the amended version of the bill creates a binding referendum and whether such a binding referendum would be allowed under the Revised Organic Act of 1954.
DeJongh approved the bill to conduct what he called an "opinion poll" on the question, according to the governor's transmittal letter released late Tuesday.
The letter included no further comment on the bill.
V.I. Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. could not be reached for comment late Tuesday on what steps would need to be taken to include the question on the Nov. 6 ballot.