30 Oct 2006

Vanuatu MP says families forced to grow marijuana becase of low copra prices

11:56 am on 30 October 2006

A member of parliament in Vanuatu has moved to support the growing of marijuana crops.

The MP from Malekula, Donna Browny, says parents are justified in planting marijuana to earn money for their children's school fees when the the copra price is down and the Government has not found an alternative commodity to replace copra.

He spoke in support of 20 suspected marijuana farmers from a village in south west Malekula who were arrested and taken to Port Vila along with 40 bags of freshly harvested crop.

The bags were intended as "sample" to show the Government how serious marijuana cultivation in Malekula has become.

Police have confirmed the men are sill in police custody while they collect enough evidence to take them to court in a preliminary hearing.

Head of the National Drug Squad, Detective Inspector, George Towmey, who led the operation, said it was difficult to monitor the 250 villagers because their community can only be reached by sea.

The MP appealed to the Government to be lenient with the villagers saying it was not their fault that they were planting marijuana instead of coconut trees because they needed the money.