Immigration opposes medicinal drugs proposal

Immigration has refused to consider a proposal to allow international travellers to carry controlled drugs - if they are legally prescribed by an authorised person - from their home countries.

 “We have to come up with a better plan than this,” Assistant Chief Immigration Officer, Siaopo Pese, told the Samoa Observer.

“Anyone can provide a doctor’s note indicating they are on medicinal marijuana. We already have a drug problem in Samoa, this will open another door and I will not have it.”

The proposal came from the Samoa Law Reform Commission (S.L.R.C.). It was contained in their Drug Reform report, released in December 2017.   

This week, key Government officials met to discuss the matter.

“We met with the Attorney General, Commissioner of Police and Acting Director General of the Hospital to address the issues around medicinal marijuana for overseas travellers,” Siaopo said.

“I am against this proposal. And I have my reasons. There should be strict procedures for a traveller, aside from showing a certificate authorizing such person to carry such drugs, from their home country. 

“Samoa is a small place and problems will arise as a result of this.

“We are trying to curb drugs entering our borders and if this is allowed, it will not end well for us. 

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“There should be guidelines to follow and with it should be approved by all interested parties in order for us to entertain the request for the travelling population who have this special need.”

The S.L.R.C. report said 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. 

“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 authorizing 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.

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,” said the S.L.R.C. in their report. 

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