More Top Stories

Rugby Union

Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

Letter: Implementing cannabis legalisation

Tuesday 22 August 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


Letter: Implementing cannabis legalisation

Dear Editor, I write out of concern for the majority passed Cook Islands referendum on marijuana legalisation and the direction in which the government is proceeding.

While investigating your country as a suitable location to manufacture a CBD balm containing absolutely no THC (utilising multi-government approved CBD isolate) for export to South Pacific nations where CBD is legal, I have heard your government is following the path New Zealand has taken for the sale of marijuana and CBD. I believe there are better paths for Cook Islands to take than that which New Zealand has implemented. These paths are more affordable and would reap not only a cash influx to Cook Islands government tax coffers, as has occurred in the US and Canada but, also boost tourism, as has recently occurred in Thailand. The New Zealand formula, I believe, is overburdened by a number of bureaucratic requirements that do not make marijuana and CBD affordable for citizens, something which a responsible government review should consider. Rather, the basis of numerous US models of legalisation, taxation and administration is the model the Cook Islands should consider for simplicity, tax benefits, purity and affordability.

As someone who has observed and done business in the industry since the development of legalisation in North America, I have seen firsthand how legalisation can keep the money spent and made in the local community, as well as how a little less bureaucracy can enhance affordability at no risk to anyone. It is not an overwhelming task to mandate compliance at all levels to guarantee tax windfalls and for communities to profit by keeping the entirety of the industry local. I would highly recommend any Cook Islands official involved in legislating and implementing marijuana law attend the MJBizcon in Las Vegas to get a feel for what is happening in the rest of the world regarding marijuana.  This convention is attended by over 50,000 people in the industry from around the world. Breakout discussions are ongoing and the educational and business opportunities are limitless. It is a real-time state of the art convention focusing on the marijuana industry that should not be missed by anyone proposing to enact a legal marijuana programme anywhere, including Cook Islands. While in Las Vegas participants can experience firsthand how the industry works at the local and national levels in the US.

Simply put, the best marijuana industry model is one that differentiates between CBD and THC. CBD does not affect the brain like THC. CBD can provide immense relief for a host of aches and pains. It should not be classified as a mind-altering substance, which it is not. As for marijuana, there are a number of companies at the Las Vegas MJBizcon that offer compliance software to ensure seed to sale tracking for tax purposes and purity of marijuana and CBD through laboratory analysis. As New Zealand requires a maze of doctor prescriptions for both THC and CBD, the US model requires only purity and taxation and this model has been of benefit to all. There are not doctors or prescriptions required in most cases. There are also many states in which marijuana is also not legal at all. However, CBD is legal in all states and is sold on the shelves off supermarkets and convenience stores. There is very little room for abuse of this system of legalisation when prices drop below street prices and take money away from organised crime. There is no need to import any element as it is all grown in the US.  However, some marijuana is imported because it is cheaper to grow outside the US and the prices are extremely competitive. 28 grams of marijuana in the US runs $100- $180 USD. A similar product in New Zealand runs $350 to $600 NZD for the same 28 grams. Even with the currency exchange rate accounted, the price in the US is almost half the cost Kiwis pay.

Also, please note that Thailand enjoyed a resurgence of tourism due to marijuana tourism since the country legalised marijuana post Covid. Any Thai will tell you the tourist who comes for marijuana is a much better tourist than those who come for alcohol and sex. Legalisation worked and brought back the pre-Covid numbers of tourists in short order and provided endless opportunities for local Thais.

I could go on ad infinitum but I will simply suggest the Cook Islands not look to New Zealand’s flawed model for marijuana legalisation as a model for your country.  Please make marijuana affordable and organic for Cook Islands citizens and the many tourists it will attract.

Pakaleka Keane