Carty Quitting Cannabis Office

Kye Walker, Richard Evangelista, and Hannah Carty appear before the 35th Legislature on behalf of the Office of Cannabis Regulation in March 2023. (Photo courtesy V.I. Legislature)

Hannah Carty plans to step down as director of the Virgin Islands Office of Cannabis Regulation in early March, she said Wednesday, citing personal reasons and unspecified family needs.

Carty informed the Cannabis Advisory Board in late autumn of her desire to leave the office, she said, but wanted to stay on until several key projects were completed, including the regulator’s registry system and the auto-expungement report that gives people convicted of cannabis possession a path to a clean record.

“Because they require a substantial amount of prior knowledge to complete, it wouldn’t have been fair to the next person to leave that workload for them,” she said. “I just know that I need to take a step off right now so I can concentrate on what’s best for my family.”

The office’s first and only director, Carty started in September 2021. She’d been, essentially, an office of one since then, building the regulator’s website from scratch and helping draft early versions of rules and regulations around legal cannabis use in the territory.

Despite the one-woman-show nature of the job, Carty was adamant in a phone interview that the work — painstaking as it may be — was much bigger than any one person.

“It’s about the work that you’re doing. Is the work getting done? Are we making traction? Are we making strides? How are we progressing?” she said. “We need to be concentrating on the work that the Cannabis Advisory Board is doing, the work that the OCR is doing. I wanna talk about the training programs that people have access to or the opportunities that people have right now to register for sacramental organizations and practitioners with the OCR so we can start getting people who really actually have been hurt and neglected by this war on drugs — that we actually have an opportunity to right those wrongs for them, including the auto-expungement report. That’s what we should be concentrating on. It’s not about me. It’s never been about me. It’s a hard job, but with any job, anyone with capability can do it. So it’s not about me, and it should never really be about me.”

Carty hoped to leave her successor a clear scope of work, unlike the build-it-from-the-ground-up organization she started at.

“When the new person steps into the role, they can start with a clean slate and get started with the rules and regulations and start making moves from there,” she said.

The office was so new and all-consuming when Carty assumed the helm that she had both personal calls, OCR calls and calls for her real estate side project routed to her private mobile phone.

“That is my personal cell phone number,” she said. “It’s my number. I pay for it. The real estate number, for I haven’t worked for them for a while, and they had an old, my old number on there that I’ve also transferred, specifically just for cannabis stuff.”

Carty acknowledged the ganja office could be paradoxically stressful.

“It can be a lot of pressure, especially when you’re always getting written about no matter what you do,” she said with a laugh. “But it can be a lot of pressure, but it has been a very rewarding job for me. I got to use a lot of the tools that I’ve worked very hard in my professional career to develop.”

Carty was not certain what her next position might be, nor did she know who might take the OCR director job. The succession plan she worked out with the board was not who might take the position but what their scope of work might be, she said.

“Give them a space to be able to step in, not in an ant’s nest, but, you know, to have something stable for them and a good place for them to start because, obviously, when I started this role, it required a lot of knowledge building. So I was afforded that opportunity at the beginning of my employment to build that knowledge. They’re not going to have the same amount of space or time to be able to do that,” she said.

“So instead of forcing them to complete major projects like the registry system, which builds off of the laws, the rules, potentially the regs, and has to be developed by the company or the auto expungement report. I mean, it’s been months of the task force meeting and me making recommendations to the task force in order for them to be able to complete their report, which I’m hoping to have their final recommendations come to me so that I can write the report that would go out to the various entities,” said Carty.

Cannabis became quasi-legal in January 2023 but effectively remained illegal until specifics of how it can be bought, sold, and used were worked out in long-awaited regulations.