Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu'i'onetoa

Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa said a decision by his cabinet to hold a public consultation on a proposal to plant hemp in the kingdom should never happen.

There was a shortfall and the move has caused public outrage, he told Broadcomm FM Broadcasting livestream updates.

“As a prime minister” that would be stopped and discontinued, he said.

Hon Tu’i’onetoa who returned to office this week after attending meetings overseas was expected to revoke the decision in Cabinet today, Wednesday 30.

He said the wording of the cabinet decision, which was leaked to Kaniva news and other media, was vague when it said it was “approved” and then it followed with the words “as amended.”

It should either said it was “deferred” or “not approved.”

He said the cabinet should have contacted him for a comment on the proposal while he was away.

As we reported last week, a Cabinet document provided to us date October 17 appears to show Cabinet approved the application from an entity identified as ‘the Brown group,’ subject to a public consultation organised  by the Attorney General’s office.

The document does not specifically say the plant is to be grown for medical purposes.

As we reported in June, a group of lobbyists failed in an attempt to discuss the possibility of legalising marijuana for medical reasons.

Chief Secretary Edgar Cocker said at the time 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.

There has been interest in growing medical marijuana in Vanuatu, but no licences had been issued yet.

The Australian Parliament has passed legislation to allow for the cultivation of marijuana for medical or scientific purposes.

There has been public concern over the legalisation of cannabis cultivation in Tonga.

Despite Deputy Prime Minister Vuna Fa’otusia explaining the difference between hemp and marijuana, some people have remained suspicious that this would lead to an easing off in the war against illicit drugs.

Hemp and cannabis

Hemp and cannabis are variants of cannabis. Cannabis contains the drug tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which gets people high. Hemp is used to make clothes, rope and other items.

In 2018 President Trump signed a Farm Bill which classified hemp as an agricultural product in the United States. Under the Bill, any cannabis plant with less then 0.3% THC is considered hemp, not marijuana.

Marijuana also contains Cannabidiol (CBD) which is legal in New Zealand. It is described as having potential therapeutic value, with little or no psychoactive properties.

The New Zealand Ministry of Health was developing a plan to enable domestic commercial cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis. The plan is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2020.

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