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Cook Islands Considering Medical Cannabis

Population-wise, it’s a tiny nation. But even the Cook Islands government is considering making medical cannabis legal.

The Cook Islands is a self-governing country with strong ties to New Zealand. It’s made up of 15 islands with a total land area of just 237square kilometres – but they are spread over two million square kilometres of ocean. Its population is around 17,600.

The capital is Avarua, which is located on the north-central coast of the island of Rarotonga – the largest island in the group. The distance from Avarua to Auckland is around 3,000 kilometres, and from Avarua to Brisbane around 4,800 km

As isolated and sparsely populated as the Cook Islands may be, there has been a call for medical cannabis to be legalised.

In August last year, a referendum took place where voters were asked to provide their views on legalisation of medical cannabis.  A majority of participating voters supported it, with 62% voting yes, 35% voting no, and 3% informal.

However, even with clear majority support, the Cook Islands’ Parliament has final say as the referendum was non-binding. Since the referendum, there’s been slow but steady progress. Early this year, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown established a committee to not only look into legalisation, but also the potential for domestic production.

Chair of the committee is Tingika Elikana, a former police officer who is also the Cook Islands’ Associate Minister for Justice, Finance & Economic Management, and Foreign Affairs and Immigration. Commenting on local medicinal cannabis production, Mr. Elikana recently stated:

“If the opportunity is cheaper for us to manufacture our own to treat those with ailments in the country, then we might have to go down that road and encourage people to get that opportunity.”

There will be a lot of legislative tweaks needed to make things happen and the country has quite tough laws on marijuana possession currently, which will also be examined as part of this investigation.

It’s not clear if/when medicinal cannabis will be legalised in the Cook Islands, or in what form it might take. But the situation illustrates that medical cannabis is a hot topic just about everywhere on the planet.

Terry Lassitenaz
Terry Lassitenaz writes exclusively for Hemp Gazette and has done so since the site launched in 2015. He has a special interest in the political arena relating to medical cannabis, particularly in Australia, and addressing the many myths surrounding this incredibly useful plant. You can contact Terry here.

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