The Republic of Vanuatu legalized the cultivation, production and use of medical cannabis, Benzinga reported on Oct. 22. The archipelago island nation is located near Australia in the South Pacific.
Vus Warorcet Nohe Ronald Warsal is Vanuatu’s acting deputy prime minister and minister for trade, tourism, commerce and Ni-Vanuatu business. “I confirm that the council of ministers on Sept. 20 passed a policy paper to change the laws of Vanuatu to permit the cultivation and use of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes in Vanuatu by licensed parties,” Warsal said in a letter.
According to a memo from the Council of Ministers, five licenses will be granted for the island of 277,000 people. Of those licenses, two will be medical cannabis cultivation licenses and three will be for industrial hemp. Cannabis will not be legal, however, in the smokable form. Vanuatu leaders selected the American company Phoenix Life Sciences International Ltd. to manufacture biopharmaceutical cannabis products, according to an Oct. 10 press release.
Until recently, cannabis could only be cultivated for research purposes, specifically for diabetes research. The island is currently going through a diabetes epidemic, and medical cannabis is one of the potential solutions.
The move was praised by lawmakers including Dr. Santus Wari, acting director of the Department of Curative & Hospital Services at Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health. “I am delighted to see the legalization of medical cannabis in Vanuatu and believe we are one step closer to treating the epidemic of diabetes within our nation and many of our neighboring Pacific countries,” Wari said.
The people of Vanuatu speak Bislama, a creole language that is close to English and French. During the nineteenth century, sandalwood became one of the island’s most important commodities. Cannabis could prove to be the island’s next revenue generator. Licenses are expected to be granted by the end of the year.