Philliciano “Foxy” Callwood wore a t-shirt advertising Foxy’s Hemp Fest while playing guitar at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar last month.

Even though marijuana is illegal in the Virgin Islands, Tom Warner doesn’t expect much of a police presence for Foxy’s Hemp Fest, which he’s throwing in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke on Saturday in partnership with Philliciano “Foxy” Callwood, owner of Foxy’s Tamarind Bar.

Philliciano “Foxy” Callwood wore a t-shirt advertising Foxy’s Hemp Fest while playing guitar at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar last month. (Photo: CLAIRE SHEFCHIK)

The aim, they say, is to “start the conversation” about the use — and possible legalisation — of marijuana in the territory.

“There isn’t a police officer [in the VI] who doesn’t believe in the decriminalisation of marijuana,” said Mr. Warner, general manager of Foxy’s. “I haven’t spoken to one yet. Most people in law enforcement agree that imprisoning people for minor drug offences makes absolutely no sense. It’s a waste of time and money.”

Plus, he said, they are unlikely to be needed, since “marijuana festivals are pretty mellow.”

The organisers are stressing the educational aspect of the event, which will feature keynote speakers Natalio “Sowande Uhuru” Wheatley, president of the Virgin Islands Party, and United States VI Senator Terrence “Positive” Nelson of St. Thomas, who led the decriminalisation movement in his territory.

They will be backed up by a host of socially conscious musicians and vendors. Mr. Warner said he also welcomes dissenting voices.

“They’re entitled to their opinions, too,” he said.

Music, from 10 a.m. till midnight, is set to include VIBE, Tia, Inity Explosion, Revelation Da Royal, Vercatyle, Ill Mindz, Shine-I, Maccabee and I- Knowledge.
More than 25 vendors from this territory, St. Thomas and St. John will also be featured, including EC Soap Co, Odd- Box Creations, Menin Designs, GreenTech, Sage Roots, Manjack Ice Cream, GreenCrete, artist Joseph Hodge, several organic farms, and more.
New Horizon will offer ferry service between JVD and West End until midnight.

‘Scooby snacks’

“Quickly it’s gone from a bunch of Rastas selling ‘scooby snacks’ to real businesspersons with smart decision-making capabilities,” Mr. Warner said. “I strongly feel that politicians will be watching this party very closely; watching the social reaction. If [vendors] are willing to step out and do this thing, then we should certainly be willing to provide the venue for it, and the government should be willing to consider what it is they’re doing as well.”

Premier Dr. Orlando Smith, Deputy Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering, and Education and Culture Minister Myron Walwyn have all expressed degrees of openness to the topic in recent months.

Mr. Walwyn came out against incarceration for small amounts of the drug, and Dr. Pickering touched on the revenue-generating possibilities of medical marijuana. According to Dr. Smith, the government has been “discussing whatever possibilities there are from the use of marijuana.”

Despite that, Mr. Warner acknowledged that progress will likely come in stages.

“I will have felt I have succeeded if it is decriminalised from a felony to a misdemeanour,” he said, adding that his advocacy is not for personal gain. “I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. There’s no direct benefit for me. It’s just something that’s fair and that the public should be at least educated about.”