Granting licenses to cultivate or be in possession of prohibited plants for scientific research or study was one of the issues that were addressed in the Law Reform Commission report on drugs.
The report, which was released last year, indicated that scientific research study and analyses should be specified in the new drugs framework.
“The Commission sought submissions on circumstances in which a license can be granted to cultivate or be in possession of prohibited plants and whether Samoa should include exemptions for scientific research or study.
“Some stakeholders submitted that licences to cultivate marijuana should be granted on the condition that it is for scientific research, study and analysis only, subject to policies and guidelines.
“They further submitted that a licence subject to Cabinet approval should be granted for such purposes and should only be valid for three months or less than 12 months.
“Some stakeholders noted that it should also cover situations where marijuana is cultivated to be used for medical treatment.
“Other submitters expressed the view that conditions for licences under the law and/or regulations need to be defined and strictly monitored.”
An example was given for Customs when importing narcotics into Samoa, M.O.H. should inform Customs of the time, date and amount of drugs being imported for monitoring purposes.
“For pharmacists, they should be required to show Customs the license as well as the list of drugs they are importing.”
However two submissions were strongly against the granting of a license to cultivate marijuana for research, study and analysis.
“It should remain illegal to cultivate even if there is a justifiable purpose. It was also added that licence to possess should also not be granted.
“Exemptions to possessing and cultivating prohibited plants under the law. “The majority view was that the exemption of cultivating and/or possessing ‘prohibited plants’ for the purpose of scientific research or study should be covered under the law.
“Additionally, one submitter noted that if this exemption is included, then other medicinal purposes should also be covered on the basis that it has been approved by either a select committee or M.O.H.”
Furthermore, the report notes there were also those who had reservations in allowing for such exemptions because of the difficulty in monitoring and regulating such activities cultivation.
“There was also the concern that Samoa does not have the technical capacity to conduct such research and study, compared to N.Z.
“Therefore, it was provided that any exemption for cultivation or for any other offence should be considered by the relevant committee (i.e. National Security Committee) who should advice the Minister and Cabinet accordingly.”
The Commission’s views of current exemption of the current Narcotics Act lacks clarity on circumstances in which such licenses are granted for the unlawful cultivation of prohibited plants and possession of seeds.
“Some stakeholders submitted to consider the exemption to grant licences for ‘scientific research study and analysis’, following provisions in N.Z., Tonga and N.S.W.
“Such an exemption should be legislated. Other stakeholders submitted to extend this exemption to ‘medical use’ but it should be closely monitored. A few submitters were against this idea.
“Notwithstanding Samoa’s Narcotics Regulations on the license to import narcotics for scientific purposes, the Commission is of the view that the exemption of scientific research study and analysis should be specified in a new drugs framework, to further clarify conditions in which such a license can be granted.”
The Commission notes that there is likelihood of abuse if such an exemption is legislated, given the statistics on drug offending in Samoa.
“However, such an exemption should be strictly regulated and monitored by the relevant authorities, before a license is granted.
“On the other hand, some stakeholders stated that the Samoan context should be considered; whether it has the technical capacity and funding to justify such an exemption, the likelihood of abuse, and how regular such studies are undertaken.”
The recommendation which is consistent with developments in Tonga and N.Z., the exemption of scientific research study and analysis should be specified in the new drugs framework.
“The Commission notes that there is likelihood of abuse if such an exemption is legislated given the statistics on drug offending in Samoa.
“However, such an exemption, if the necessary license is granted, should be strictly regulated and monitored by the relevant authorities,” says the report.