The cannabis debate will continue as the much anticipated decision on whether Cook Islands voters will have their say in a referendum will be made this week.
A government spokeswoman confirmed an announcement is likely to be made this week.
Prime Minister Mark Brown last month told Cook Islands news a
referendum was “fifty-fifty”.
“I would really like to know what the
public’s view is and an election is a great time to ask that sort of question
through a referendum,” Brown told the newspaper.
He said the referendum would look at if people wanted
to reform cannabis for medicinal and personal use.
Medicinal cannabis advocate, Steve Boggs on Monday
“Our country's cannabis policies must be completely overhauled and this
could have been done already.”
Boggs said under the Cook Islands Health Act 2013 the Minister of Health, Rose Brown, was empowered to develop, apply and impose codes of practice of recognised international standards.
“This includes any pharmaceutical or therapeutic products,
like medicinal cannabis if it is given in writing by the Minister of Health.
“But being the do nothing
politician that she is, we shouldn't be surprised that she hasn't acted already
to relieve the pain of so many mentally and physically ailing Cook Islanders.”
Boggs said the Cook Islands could
consider, New Zealand, Australia and Canada’s rules on medicinal cannabis as
recognised international standard.
The referendum is backed by
Democratic Party leader Tina Browne.
“I have no problem with having a referendum and let
the people tell us what they want,” Browne told Cook Islands News in
“When you read in the Cook Islands News or
the media there appears to be a strong support for cannabis for medicinal
reasons and it makes sense to me, everybody else have moved on and we’re still
stuck in the old ways.”
In 2020, a referendum on cannabis took place in
conjunction with the New Zealand general election.
It asked “Do you support the proposed Cannabis
Legalisation and Control Bill?” – 51.17 per cent voted against the referendum
question, and 48.83 per cent voted in favour of the question, 1 per cent
spoiled their ballot.
New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Sarah
Helm previously told Cook Islands News part of the problem with the New Zealand
referendum was the fact the question was “too specific”.
“The Government had put forward this comprehensive
piece of legislation, but it got lost in the weeds when it came to the actual
referendum vote,” Helm said.
“I think the question was a big strategic error, it
would have been better to have had a question asking about decriminalisation or
even asking whether a more health-based reform to cannabis laws were required.”
Helm said the organisation’s research shows that
many people who voted no were actually in favour of some form of drug law
She said it was inevitable New Zealand would see
some reform on its cannabis laws.