St. Thomas man facing pot possession charges after airport arrest

St. Thomas man facing pot possession charges after airport arrest

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A St. Thomas man appeared in court Monday after he was arrested at King Airport with 19 pounds of cannabis.

Camal Clendinen, 43, was charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and simple possession of marijuana.

At his advice-of-rights hearing Monday, Magistrate Judge Paula Norkaitis found probable cause for each charge. The distribution charge carries a possible five-year prison sentence for a first offense, and the maximum penalty for marijuana possession is one year behind bars.

The Virgin Islands Superior Court case management system suffered an outage Sunday and Monday, and the probable cause fact sheet filed by Virgin Islands Police had not been made public as of Monday night.

Territorial Public Defender Zarije Asani said in court that Clendinen does not have any criminal history, and he does have a prescription for medical cannabis. Assistant V.I. Attorney General Jeremy Weddle said Clendinen was carrying a large amount intended for distribution, around 19 pounds.

Norkaitis set bail at $7,500 and said he may be released to a third-party custodian while he awaits trial.

The Virgin Islands government has theoretically legalized possession and use of cannabis, but the drug will remain illegal until rules for enforcement are in place. And until legal dispensaries are allowed to open, illegal cannabis imports remain the only way for Virgin Islanders to access the drug.

Even after the regulations are passed, cannabis possession will remain illegal in federal facilities like ports, and only licensed farmers and distributors will be allowed to grow and sell the drug.

Meanwhile, the government is still working to craft a system for automatic expungement of convictions for simple possession of marijuana and similar crimes.

A section of the law signed in January 2023 requires the Office of the Governor to create a working group that “shall issue an Auto-Expungement report no later than 10 months from the date of enactment of this act.”

That deadline came and went in November, and it remains unclear when the government will start offering expungement for minor cannabis crimes.