The Cook Islands has taken a step closer to working on draft legislation that could lead to marijuana becoming a legal quantity for research purposes and medicinal use.
The recently held general election doubled up as a referendum to which 62 per cent of the Cook Islands population have agreed to.
Cook Islanders were asked to vote on a referendum asking “Should we review our cannabis laws to allow for research and medicinal use?”
The final results released Thursday morning revealed 62 per cent voted “yes”, 35 per cent voted “no” and the remaining three per cent were “informal”.
Cannabis or marijuana is classified as a controlled drug which under sections 6 and 7 of the Narcotics and Misuse of Drugs Act 2004, and dealing in controlled drugs is a criminal offence. Also possession and use of a controlled drug is an offence.
According to the law, the courts in the Cook Islands are allowed to pass jail sentences of up to 20 years.
An recent statement from the Office of the Prime Minster said the question to voters was deliberately broad and they hoped the referendum would allow room for wider debate on medicinal cannabis.
“The referendum is non-binding but it does allow the government an opportunity to gauge the public opinion on whether the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is acceptable to the public,” said the statement.
For the Cook Islands, this will help control the illegal sale of the narcotic on the islands. Although the nation hardly cultivates cannabis, there is flow from New Zealand to the island nation where it is used for recreational purposes.
The big question is when this process will take place. The Cook Islands has been known to deal with legislative changes at a slower pace.
In Fiji, the government recently announced plans to bring changes to its legislation to grow industrial hemp, cannabis that cannot be used for recreational purposes.