Lawyer calls on Govt. to legalise marijuana

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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TAKING A STAND ON MARIJUANA: Lawyer Unasa Iuni Sapolu.

TAKING A STAND ON MARIJUANA: Lawyer Unasa Iuni Sapolu. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

A Senior Lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, has called on the government to consider legalizing marijuana. 

In her view, it will help Samoa’s economy through the export of medicinal marijuana, especially coconut oil and marijuana fuse. 

She also believes this will help reduce the number of inmates housed at Tafa’igata Prison. 

“Furthermore it will save costs to Samoa when all those imprisoned for possession of marijuana etc. are no longer fed in jail, no longer accommodated in jail and there are no more criminal offenses relating to marijuana,” she said. 

“For health reasons, those with cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, cancer, depression and other health problems can be treated with marijuana.”

She told the Samoa Observer the government is wasting money and the Court’s time. 

“Stop listening to white agendas, colonized minds, it's just a plant, legalize and reduce government indebtedness,” she said. 

According to Unasa, there is a need to legalise marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. 

“Boost revenue from tourism by recreational use of marijuana and it will help cure some illnesses through using marijuana,” she said. 

As reported last year, opium is the only legal drug that is allowed under Samoa’s Narcotic Act. It is classified as a Class B narcotic together with marijuana and it’s considered an illegal drug. 

Under section 10 of the Act, it prohibits importing prepared opium into Samoa unless a license has been granted by the Ministry of Health’s C.E.O. 

This is according to the Samoa Law Reform Commission (S.L.R.C.) report on the review of the Narcotics Act 1967 released in July, 2017. 

In 2015, the S.L.R.C. received a term of reference from the Office of the Attorney General noting concerns that the current Act is outdated. 

The S.L.R.C. report says the Narcotics Act does not expressly provide for the situations in which members of the public can apply for illegal drugs to be used for medicinal purposes.

“However, this mechanism does exist in practice and can be utilized if the prescribing physician deems it necessary to request the particular drug, particularly opium." 

“This system has been rarely utilised in Samoa." 

“Conversely, overseas jurisdictions such as New Zealand and Australia utilize this option more routinely and have concrete mechanisms in place to facilitate these applications.” 

According to the report, opium is used to produce morphine and codeine and is commonly used for pain relief. 

“In New Zealand, methadone is also used in drug treatment. Many other drugs are used in tranquillisers, sedatives, stimulants and antipsychotics." 

“Aside from medicinal opium, the Narcotics Act is silent on situations where an illegal drug can be requested for medicinal purposes.” 

The Narcotics Act only provides for the supply of opium by the C.E.O. of Ministry of Health to registered persons already addicted to the quasi medicinal use of opium before the Act was passed. 

The Act provides that the C.E.O. may supply a certain quantity of medicinal opium to a person on the register whom he/she thinks is fit to be supplied thereof. 

“Accordingly, the conditions in which a person in Samoa can be prescribed opium are incredibly limited as they are only provided to persons on the register."

“Opium is classified as a Class B narcotic together with marijuana, thus it is considered an illegal drug, and Section 10 prohibits importing prepared opium into Samoa unless a licence has been granted by the C.E.O." 

“On the other hand, opium can be used for medicinal purposes if it has undergone the processes necessary to adapt it for medicinal use.”  

The S.L.R.C. report also points to other medicinal drugs there is scope under the Narcotics Regulation 1967 for an approved licensee to prescribe drugs, for example medicinal marijuana. 

“Preliminary consultations with M.o.H. revealed that patients have requested medicinal drugs from their doctors." 

“There has only been one request for medicinal marijuana in 2015. This request involved a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She requested the supply of medicinal marijuana (cannabis oil) for pain relief.” 

When a request is filed, the M.o.H. must submit the application to the International Narcotics Control Board (I.N.C.B.) for approval. 

The M.o.H. will find an importer and apply for a licence from the I.N.C.B. to allow for the import of narcotics.

“Once the licence is approved, the drug is then imported for medicinal use in quantities specified by the treating physician. These licences can only be used in controlled situations and are valid for three months only,” says the S.L.R.C. report. 

According to M.o.H, the supply of opium and other medicinal drugs is rare in Samoa. However, once people are aware of this option for pain relief, M.o.H. anticipates more requests of this nature in the future, says the report. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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