Commission completes review of Narcotics Act

The Samoa Law Reform Commission (S.L.R.C.) has completed its Drugs Reform (Review of the Narcotics Act 1967) Final Report.

This is according to a public notice they have posted on their Facebook page. 

The notice was issued after a call by Senior Lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, to legalise marijuana for medical treatment in Samoa. 

“In light of the recent debate on the legalisation of marijuana in Samoa, the Commission recently completed its Drugs Reform (Review of the Narcotics Act 1967) Final Report and issues on medicinal use of drugs are being considered,” the notice reads.

“The Commission’s report is now before Cabinet for approval,” says the notice. 

“In addition to the issue of medicinal drugs, other matters including offences and penalties for drug offending, exemptions to prohibition, enforcement, rehabilitation and treatment of addicts as well as the role of the village community are also being considered and recommendations are made accordingly,” according to the notice.  

Ministry of Health Director, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri told the Samoa Observer last week that the Health Sector has “always entertained” the idea of legalising marijuana for medical purposes in Samoa because there are cases that have been approved by the Narcotics Board. 

However, there is “not enough” evidence indicating that marijuana can be extensively used as medicine.

That is the response of the “It’s just hearsay and literally superficial evidence and like every other drug, there are pros and cons,” he told the Sunday Samoan. 

He cautioned that Samoa should be careful when it comes to narcotics. 

“Medical marijuana is for relief and yet other people use it to get high,” he said.

“Medical marijuana from a health’s perspective is any part of the marijuana plant which you use to treat health problems.”

“And most people use it to get relief, not just to get high and that is the difference.” 

In Samoa, the current law permits the legalising of a specific dosage. 

“For narcotics such as marijuana, heroin or morphine, we take it case by case,” he said. 

“The law has its acceptations, especially when it’s a matter of life and death and we look on the grounds that it does relieve pain especially with chronic pain.”

“We prescribe for specialised cases, but we are not saying that we will prescribe for everyone. Now that is not allowed.”

The S.L.R.C. report issued last year indicates that aside from medicinal opium, the Narcotics Act is silent on situations where an illegal drug can be requested for medicinal purposes. 

The Narcotics Act only provides for the supply of opium by the C.E.O. of Ministry of Health to register persons already addicted to the quasi medicinal use of opium before the Act was passed. 

The Act provides that the C.E.O. may supply a certain quantity of medicinal opium to a person on the register whom he/she thinks fit to be supplied thereof. 

“Accordingly, the conditions in which a person in Samoa can be prescribed opium are incredibly limited because they are only provided to persons on the register.”

The S.L.R.C. report also points to other medicinal drugs there is scope under the Narcotics Regulation 1967 for an approved licensee to prescribe drugs, for example medicinal marijuana. 

“Preliminary consultations with M.O.H. revealed that patients have requested medicinal drugs from their doctors.” 

“There has only been one request for medicinal marijuana in 2015.”

“This request involved a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She requested the supply of medicinal marijuana (cannabis oil) for pain relief.”  

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