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Letter: Hemp legal in Cook Islands

Wednesday 20 March 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


Letter: Hemp legal in Cook Islands

Dear Editor, In an article in the Cook Islands News on December 12, 2023, the esteemed senior defence lawyer Norman George pointed out that hemp, not being a prohibited drug, saying it should not even be mentioned in the amendment.

“Hemp is already legal and is used in the same way as cannabis, but much weaker.”

Hemp is not mentioned in our Drugs Act, it is listed in the Customs Act as a prohibited seed to import because they claim it to be a noxious weed.

Hemp has grown wild in the Cook Islands for decades and local cultivators initially took the seeds from the hemp plants to grow their own, all the while erroneously thinking it was illegal.

Only recently have they become wise that it wasn’t necessary to hide their cultivation of hemp by using coded text messages to sell to customers and other cultivators this legal non psychoactive agriculture crop.

Now the Police, or anyone else for that matter can distinguish hemp and marijuana which look and smell alike and cannabis sniffer dogs will alert on both.

However, hemp being legal in the Cook Islands doesn’t mean it has to fall under the broad global acceptance of a maximum of 0.3 per cent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) for two reasons.

  1. We don’t have a Farm Bill to classify hemp at 0.3 per cent.
  2. It’s not grounded in scientific fact that 0.3 per cent THC is the cut-off percentage for a non psychoactive effect.

Other countries like Mexico, Switzerland and Thailand adjusted their THC caps to 1.0 per cent, this means there is a precedent for a greater THC threshold.

Besides that, it would be incredibly difficult for local cultivators to constantly produce hemp crops that will test at 0.3 per cent or less THC.

There are so many variables at play that the grower has little or no control over.

Our Drug Act has been turned upside down by this unanticipated hiccup for the growing, selling and possession of hemp on the islands.

It will be difficult for the law to know who is growing legal hemp and who is growing illegal marijuana.

The best solution is to delist marijuana in the Drug Act and make it legal for the time being to avoid potential litigation for false arrests and civil claims against the Police.

In the interim legislators can create regulations and other guidelines for hemp programmes, medicinal cannabis and recreational marijuana programmes.

Steve Boggs