Fiji’s government is seeking to generate alternative sources of revenue – and establishing a medical cannabis industry is on its list of potential options.
One of Fiji’s main sources of foreign income is its tourism industry, which accounted for nearly a quarter of GDP in 2019. But when COVID hit, a tough lesson was learned.
“Relying solely on tourism is not sustainable for our economy,” said Deputy Prime Minister Manoa Kamikamica. “We must explore new avenues for generating income and diversifying our economy. One promising area we are considering is the cultivation of medicinal cannabis.”
Deputy PM Kamikamica made it clear that such a venture wouldn’t be happening in a wild-west type environment as it has in some other countries – and legalizing recreational marijuana was definitely not on the cards. In fact, even medicinal cannabis cultivated under this initiative wouldn’t be used domestically.
“It’s essential to understand that this endeavor will be closely regulated and confined to secure facilities,” he said. “There will be no local sales or marketing; instead, the products will be harvested, processed, and exported.”
The prospect has already attracted attention from pharmaceutical companies; one of which is also interested in the potential for exporting traditional Fijian medicine (Wai Vaka Viti) to international markets.
“This initiative goes beyond just generating income; it’s an opportunity to create jobs, strengthen our economy, and potentially enhance the lives of those in need,” stated Mr. Kamikamica.
One of the next steps will be nationwide consultations to enable the country’s citizens to provide input that will help inform shaping the future of medicinal cannabis in Fiji.
On a related note, it was only last year when changes to legislation enabled the importation, possession, cultivation, sale and supply of industrial hemp in Fiji; defined as cannabis with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration not exceeding 1%.
Fiji President Wiliame Katonivere has strongly supported exploring the potential of hemp and stated in 2021 the country “must not hesitate” in tapping into its economic benefits.