A New Zealand study tour to investigate lessons-learnt for licensing, prescribing, and dispensing, and potentially producing medicinal cannabis products in the Cook Islands is proposed for next month.
Comprehensive work is underway to determine the policy settings and assess the legal framework to allow for future possible legal use, importation and/or production of medicinal cannabis in the Cook Islands, with plans to have a policy prepared and approved by Cabinet by later this year.
As part of that extensive research, some members of the Cannabis Referendum Committee will visit key stakeholders in the New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis sector including a range of companies and pharmacists and regulators.
Results from a non-binding referendum held on August 1 last year saw 62 percent of respondents agree that cannabis laws should be reviewed to allow for research and medicinal use in the Cook Islands.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says this public response was considered a mandate for the Cook Islands Government to allow for research and the medicinal use of cannabis in the Cook Islands.
Under that mandate, the Cannabis Referendum Committee (formerly called the Cannabis Reform Committee) was established in November 2022.
Members of the committee are Chairperson Tingika Elikana, Solicitor General Lauaki Annandale, Te Marae Ora – Cook Islands Ministry of Health Secretary Bob Williams, Office of the Prime Minister Chief of Staff Ben Ponia, and community representative Marie Francis.
Cannabis Referendum Committee chairperson Tingika Elikana says in order to develop a regulatory framework for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in the Cook Islands, research needs to be carried out on the systems and laws in countries where medicinal cannabis is legal.
The production and prescription of medicinal cannabis in the Cook Islands is also consistent with goals of the National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ (NSDA 2020+).
Te Marae Ora – Cook Islands Ministry of Health Secretary Bob Williams says the use of medicinal cannabis to treat patients with a number of chronic health conditions, is new to the Cook Islands so it is critical that all relevant matters are considered in the development of the framework.
“It’s essential that ongoing research, education, public consultation and training is undertaken to allow for medical cannabis to be imported, prescribed and produced in the Cook Islands,” he says.
“We need to ensure that all risks are carefully considered and managed and measures are put in place to regulate the industry.”
Updates about the work of the Cannabis Referendum Committee and a timeline can be found at: https://www.pmoffice.gov.ck/cannabisref/
Ends: Media enquiries to Jaewynn McKay, press secretary +682 55486