Lobbyists in Tonga want marijuana legalised for medical reasons; MOH says kingdom too small to bear it

    A group of lobbyists wants Tongan lawmakers to legalise marijuana for medical reasons, a reliable source has told Kaniva news.

    It is understood an attempt by the group through the Prime Minister’s office to discuss the proposal was unsuccessful.  

    The source did not provide names of the group or how many of them.

    Chief Secretary Edgar Cocker said he was unaware of any “submission – but hemp is illegal as per the Tonga Drugs Act.”

    A Ministry of Health spokesperson said Tonga was too small to allow marijuana to be used in any form.

    Drugs testing lap

    Meanwhile, the Minister of Police said in Parliament the government was planning to set up a drug lab in Tonga to provide drugs testing for evidential reasons.

    Drugs in Tonga which need to be tested have to be sent to New Zealand labs.

    Hon. Mateni Tapueluelu said he and the Police Commissioner were expected to attend an official meeting in New Zealand next month.

    He said they would have an opportunity to visit drugs labs in the country as part of the plan for Tonga.

    He said a drugs lab in Tonga could speed up work required for fact findings.

    Hon. Tapueluelu said the war against illicit drugs was proceeding satisfactorily and TP$1 million had been provided to help the fight.

    Rehabilitation concerns

    In the meantime, there was concern in the country that little had been done to rehabilitate drug users 

    The concern was raised by the director of the Mental Health Unit and head psychiatrist, Mapa Puloka, at a recent workshop in Nuku’alofa.

    Dr Puloka said most of those who came to the hospital for help were put into the Mental Health Ward, but staff said ineffective services meant many were not properly cared for, Radio New Zealand international has reported.

    There were almost weekly arrests of drug dealers, especially for methamphetamine or marijuana offences, and among them were senior Customs officials, who had been instrumental in “clearing” container shipments of drugs coming into Tonga from overseas, Dr Puloka said.

    While there is rising concern about the health and addictive impact on users, little is being done in terms of rehabilitation.

    However, health officials, church and community leaders, as well as NGOs, are meeting regularly to devise a co-ordinated plan for drug education in schools.

    Medical marijuana

    Last year the New Zealand government proposed legalising medical marijuana. The bill passed its third reading in December with the support of Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens. The National Party opposition also proposed a Member’s Bill to implement a medicinal cannabis regime.

    Investors are interested in growing medical marijuana in Vanuatu, but no licences had been issued yet.

    Radio New Zealand reported that the Vanuatu government had expressed an interest in looking at the possibility of allowing investment in cannabis or hemp for medical purposes.

    However, the Director general of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Moses Amos, said government agencies had yet to work on relevant legal provisions to cater for medical marijuana investment.

    The Australian Parliament has passed legislation to allow for the cultivation of marijuana for medical or scientific purposes. This involved an amendment to the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967 and allows for cultivation through a national licensing scheme.

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