Positive T.A. Nelson, a former seven-term senator and the current Commissioner of Agriculture of the U.S. Virgin Islands tried several times to pass legislation legalizing medical cannabis before he was ultimately successful this past January. After a long-fought battle, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. finally signed into law the Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Care Act.
“You know as well as I do the long-rugged road to legalization,” Nelson told PotNetwork News in a recent interview. “That’s what I call it, the long-rugged road to legalization.”
And although according to Nelson, cannabis is common in the Carribean, the push for a legalized trade was wrought with detractors.
“This is where advocates are demonized, are attacked, our character is attacked,” Nelson recalled of his and other’s efforts to move the islands forward on the issue.
He continued: “Our very families are attacked because of our support for cannabis and cannabis legalization. I went through the same thing because I was a labor leader for years. It’s a shame because many people who are supporters are afraid or do not [fight] because of the character assassination. It’s been hard, from colleagues in the legislature making jokes to others making jokes about this movement.”
But Nelson adopted the moniker “Positive” for a reason, and he’s a man steadfast in his beliefs. And, in the end, with the passage of the medical cannabis bill in January, he was vindicated, even though he understands there is still much work to be done.
“I’m looking forward to its full implementation and for the health benefits and of course the economic benefit,” Nelson said, knowing that now that the bill had passed the work of educating the people still lie ahead of him.
“I feel that we have crossed that threshold, and there’s so much more to work to do.
Positive is how I live
According to a recent article in the Virgin Island Daily News, progress has been slow coming in forming a regulatory framework for the territory’s medical cannabis industry. By law, a nine-member Cannabis Advisory Board was to be established as a first step no later than 120 days following the passage of the law. That date came and went on May 17.
“There are many technicalities to be addressed in the structure of this program, and the initial 120 days provided by the current law is insufficient to ensure a thorough, all-encompassing drafting process,” said Richard Evangelista, director nominee of the V.I. Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, during a recent hearing, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News.
But despite the hiccups, Nelson remains… hopeful.
The wheels are in motion, and, as others on the islands have noted, it’s better to roll things out slowly than to rush the process and make mistakes. And, after all, positive is how Nelson lives.
“I officially changed my name, added Positive as my first name because for me I’ve seen and I’ve been witness to the power of positive attitude, positive thinking and that is something that I encourage in my lifetime,” Nelson told PotNetwork News in a deep-dive about his background.
“I adopted Positive is How I Live as my life slogan,” he continued. “It is a registered trademark, and I use it as my way to motivate people to go beyond their own self-applied restrictions or limits.”
It’s that attitude that has taken Nelson to the pinnacle of success in nearly everything he’s done in his lifetime, from his degree in accounting to his time in the labor union with the American Federation of Teachers, through to his time in politics. In fact, it was his time as a teacher and in the labor union that taught Nelson how to use his voice positively.
“I realized that I had to be a voice for those who do not have that platform to speak for and defend themselves,” he recalled.
When prompted about his accomplishments, however, Nelson was quick to note that he’s not one to brag. “There’s so much work to be done,” he said, in a remindful tone. Still, through it all, he remains… hopeful.
Which is why despite the hold up in the government, Nelson pivoted to say that the territory should have a regulatory framework in place by the end of the year. He reiterated to PotNetwork News what he told a local CBS affiliate just a few days earlier, that he foresees things falling into place before the holidays roll around.
“We are looking forward,” Nelson told PotNetwork News about the U.S. Virgin Islands’ plans to create a stable medical cannabis framework. “I believe we should be able to be issuing rules and regs [and] giving licenses some time before December of 2019.”
People working together
Of course, with the government doing its part to nail down a regulatory framework, it falls on advocates like Nelson to educate and empower the people when it comes to cannabis. He told PotNetwork News that he’s already hard at work seeking out the help of medical professionals and that he’s hopeful that the Department of Health will jump on board as well.
And the soon-to-be-established Office of Cannabis Regulation should play a significant role in educating doctors and patients in the benefits of medical cannabis.
But until the official framework is in place, Nelson is working a grassroots team on the ground, trying to spread the word about what’s coming while separating fact from fiction.
“So, until such time we will do a weekend here, and I have done what I can do with a few, to do what I can in helping to push and get prepared for the industry and educating [the] populace about it,” Nelson said. “I’ve been having many meetings with different groups who are interested to let them know about the laws do’s and don’ts and the possibilities that exist.”
As part of that push, Nelson is working with 420MEDIA to sponsor CANNAVAL, the first Cannabis Educational Expo in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s two events, on two separate islands, designed to, as the official presser states, educate and empower the people of the islands about medical cannabis, hemp, and CBD.
CANNAVAL is set to host some of the biggest names in cannabis — including Nelson as the keynote speaker. And it all began as a conversation with some friends.
“I started talking to some of my friends on the mainland I met on this rugged road to legalization and Miss Accardi from 420MEDIA who we’ve done some work [with] before,” Nelson recalled about the expo’s early beginnings. “I decided that we’re going to see what we can do about getting the word out, and we touched on the creative name CANNAVAL from carnival and cannabis.”
The Commissioner of Agriculture spoke excitedly about the event, which is free for the people of the Virgin Islands, and a unique opportunity for all people to come together to learn about cannabis and network. In fact, over three days in July, the territory will become the central focus of the cannabis sector, a place for seasoned entrepreneurs and those still wet-behind-the-ears to stand hand-in-hand and learn from each other about the benefits of cannabis, hemp, and CBD.
As Nelson explained to PotNetwork News, the weekend will begin with meet-and-greet receptions on Friday, followed by a full day worth of speaking engagements and learning workshops on Saturday.
Sunday, well that’s where the real fun begins. “We will have a beach party,” Nelson said, gleefully.
Just as quickly, though, the conversation returned to a more serious tone.
“We are allowing opportunities for individuals to network,” Nelson reminded PotNetwork News. “As you know, individuals who are on the island they can start a healthy discussion amongst themselves.”
He continued: “This industry is really about people working together. So it kind of embodies that concept of networking, educating, and inspiring people to really move forward and understand the level of professionalism and commitment they have to have when getting involved in this industry.”
Bringing this industry back to life
Positive T.A. Nelson has a vision for the future. A man true to his principles, he believes adults 21 and older should be free to partake in recreational cannabis at their leisure. He’d like to see the people be allowed to grow at least six plants for personal use —sans license. And cannabis lounges are at the top of his list also.
“[One] in which tourists or individuals can go to a lounge where cannabis can be ordered at a table [with a] menu, and there are spaces where individuals can just socialize,” he told PotNetwork News.
But Nelson sees more for the Virgin Islands.
“I would like to establish a Caribbean cannabis trade organization for the purpose of growing cannabis by certain standards and create a super fund from the revenue from the trade of this cannabis,” he continued. “The money generated will be used to build up the infrastructure throughout the Caribbean islands. I would like something like that headquartered in the Virgin Islands because of our U.S. status and the security that comes along with that, but I definitely see the Caribbean region as a big player.”
And then, of course, there’s research too.
“Ultimately, I would like to have deep research similar to what they’re doing over in Israel,” Nelson stated. “I would like to set up a cannabis research institute right here on this island, St. Croix. I think there are endless opportunities, and I definitely more than anything would want to know that the local residents had a chance to gain with this new founding industry.”
Asked about expungement for past cannabis-related crimes, Nelson said he supported the idea. “I do believe that people should have the records scrubbed clean and [should be] able to also participate in the industry as well.”
All in all, Positive T.A. Nelson has a bold vision for the future of the cannabis industry in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But it all starts in the here and now, at CANNAVAL, educating and empowering the people.
“In the new founding industry and for me, I would like to say that one day when I’m old and gray that I had a hand in bringing this industry back to life,” said Nelson.