Govt. urged to legalise medical drug cards

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Teleiai Dr. Lalotoa Mulitalo.

Teleiai Dr. Lalotoa Mulitalo.

The Government should allow international travellers to carry controlled drugs if they are legally prescribed by an authorised person in their home countries.

This is the proposal by the Samoa Law Reform Commission in their Drug Reform report released in December last year. 

“Samoa does not have a provision under Samoa’s Narcotics Act exempting travellers who are authorised by their home countries to carry drugs for treatment services to another country,” the report reads. 

“Currently, any illegal drug discovered at the border by Customs are seized and detained. 

“However, there are situations where an international traveller who is found to be in possession of such drugs can be exempted from liability on the condition that there is a certificate authorising such person to  carry such drugs i.e. a prescription.” 

According to the S.L.R.C. report, in the 1990s there was a case where an Australian passenger was travelling to Samoa carrying illegal drugs. 

This person was allowed to carry such drugs into Samoa on the basis that it was authorised by his doctor back in Australia.

“Tonga and New Zealand both have exemptions for international travellers who carry with them illegal drugs required for treating a medical condition (or for a person under their care as in N.Z.), and the drug has been lawfully supplied in the country of origin by a treating medical practitioner and it is no more than a one month supply. 

“However, N.Z. classifies certain types of drugs that travellers can travel with. For example, cannabis-based products for medical use supplied in the US can only be permitted into N.Z. if such product has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.” 

The Commission sought submissions on whether the new drugs framework should contain such a provision regarding international traveller exemption from carrying illegal drugs. 

“The common view was that Samoa should allow international travellers to carry controlled drugs if legally prescribed by an authorised person in their home countries.

“One submitter expressed the view that cannabis for instance, is now known to have good uses for cancer, and that the world may be heading this way particularly with the rise of cancer cases globally.

“Therefore, more and more people are relying on these illegal drugs for treatment and take it with them while travelling. 

“It was suggested that the N.Z. approach could be used as guidance because it is reasonable. 

“However it was strongly emphasised that there should also be strict guidelines and conditions in place to effectively regulate such cases.

“For example conditions/requirements could cover matters including the amount to be allowed into Samoa which should be less than a month supply i.e. 30 day permit, the drug was lawfully supplied in the country of origin for a certain medical condition and that it was approved by an authorised medical practitioner and as proof, proper medical documentation/evidence such as a medical report must be provided certifying that the controlled drug are prescribed for treatment.” 

The S.L.R.C. report says that one submitter noted that further review/discussions of the issue is needed before a decision to exempt international travellers is made.

Yet another suggested that such exemption should not be included in the law at all.

“The Commission notes that the international travellers’ exemptions allow travellers to carry with them drugs that are otherwise prohibited in the country of destination, provided that such drugs are accompanied by a certificate issued by a medical practitioner or a relevant authorised body in their country of origin. 

“Such exemptions can be found in the laws of Tonga and N.Z. where travellers are allowed to do so for medical reasons, with certain conditions.”

The S.L.R.C. recommended the new drugs framework should include a provision exempting international travellers who have been authorised to carry illegal drugs for treatment when entering Samoa similar to Tonga and New Zealand. 

“However, strict guidelines and conditions need to be in place to regulate such practice which may include the following: - the amount to be allowed into Samoa which should be less than a month supply i.e. 30 day permit; the drug was lawfully supplied in country of origin for a certain medical condition and that it was approved by an authorised medical practitioner; and- as proof, proper medical documentation/ evidence such as a medical report must be provided certifying that the controlled drug is prescribed for treatment.” 

Last month, Ministry of Health Director, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said a medical card is not valid in Samoa. 

“Overseas, if you are prescribed to use marijuana medically, you must have a medical card to show at border control. 

 “We are an independent State and so these medical cards are not allowed here.” 

He said a cancer patient from overseas requested to grow marijuana at their residence for pain relief. 

“It’s impossible for us to allow that.

“So we prescribe the medication and have it refilled.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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