The coronavirus crisis has dealt the world such a massive economic blow that it will take years for it to recover. Millions of people are already out of a job, and experts say that half of the global workforce, 1.6 billion people, are in danger of losing their livelihoods. Understandably, governments are scrambling to find ways to boost their economies.
For some, this has led to talks of legalizing marijuana. One of the biggest arguments for legalizing marijuana has been to earn tax revenue, with states like Colorado that have thriving legal cannabis programs earning big bucks. Governor Albert Bryan Jr. of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), who has long been a proponent for legalizing cannabis, has also gone this route.
He plans on sending a revised marijuana legalization bill to the legislature in hopes that it will be passed in time to generate much-needed tax revenue. With coronavirus measures in place, commerce has all but slowed down, greatly reducing the amount of tax revenue governments are subject to receive. However, cannabis is considered essential, and shops would be able to continue operations during the lockdown.
“We have taken the time to gather further public input as well as address the concerns of the individual legislators. As the economic disaster the last few weeks has affected GERS (Government Employees Retirement System) greatly, it is our hope that we can have a greater sense of exigency in implementing all the things that can help us regain solvency,” he said during an update on the coronavirus crisis.
“Once again, it is not the panacea, but certainly cutting the annuity of retirees by 30% cannot be the path either.”
The territory’s government retirement program for public sector retirees had been in trouble even before the coronavirus outbreak. Governor Bryan had proposed legalizing marijuana to help fund GERS through tax revenue from cannabis sales. However, several legislators voiced their opposition, stating that the tax revenue earned from a legal cannabis program wouldn’t be enough to fund the retirement program.
The proposal would amend the territory’s medical marijuana law to allow adults 21 and older to purchase and cultivate marijuana. The government estimates an annual tax revenue of over $20 million, with marijuana being taxed at 30%. 85% of the funds would be used to fund the government retirement system, 20% to fund senior citizen initiatives and 5% to fund the territory’s Office of Cannabis Regulations.
It would be interesting to hear what sector players like The Supreme Cannabis Company Inc. (TSX: FIRE) (OTCQX: SPRWF) think about the chances of a legal marijuana market being up and running in the U.S. Virgin Islands in time to rescue the economy from the effects of COVID-19.
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