28 Oct 2019

Public consultation proposed on legalising hemp in Tonga

10:33 am on 28 October 2019
Hikurangi Enterprises' Hemp Crop

Hikurangi Enterprises' Hemp Crop Photo: Hikurangi Enterprises

A leaked government document in Tonga appearing to show Cabinet approval for public consultations on the merits of growing hemp has sparked vigorous debate.

The official memorandum bears the seal and signature of the Chief Secretary to Cabinet, Edgar Cocker, and is addressed to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet as well as ministry chief executives.

The document shows approval for public consultation on a proposal from an entity referred to as "The Brown Group" for the cultivation and production of hemp for business purposes.

Our correspondent in Tonga, Kalafi Moala, said since the document surfaced Tongans had been flooding social media with questions.

He said some were asking why the new government was prioritising the growing of hemp when there were more pressing issues, such as the growth of methamphetamine and cannabis use.

A few people had released information covering the health benefits of hemp.

Others pointed out the cannabis plant in discussion produces both hemp and marijuana, which are illegal in Tonga.

A high-profile case of arrest with hemp involved the son-in-law of Her Royal Highness Princess Pilolevu Tuita.

Sione Filipe is married to a daughter of the princess. He was arrested this year as he tried to bring in hemp seeds into the country.

The case is yet to be heard in court.

An increasing number of people however have called for the legalising of hemp for medicinal reasons.

However, in a country where the church is the most dominant social force, there may be a rough passage ahead for the legalisation calls.