Australia's Neighboring Country Just Legalized Medical Marijuana

The Republic of Vanuatu, a 277,000-person South Pacific nation, has legalized medical cannabis.

According to a series of official documents procured by Benzinga, the country will now allow the cultivation, production and use of medical marijuana.

The plant was previously allowed to be grown for reasearch purposes only, as the country, battling with a diabetes epidemic, sought an answer in the good old herb.

"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," Vus Warorcet Nohe Ronald Warsal, the country's acting deputy prime minister and minister for trade, tourism, commerce and Ni-Vanuatu business, said in a letter. 

The related legislation is expected to be presented in the country's parliament later this year, and licenses are expected to be granted before the end of December, according to the document. 

Related Link: Cannabis Is Now Legal In Canada: Industry Insiders Discuss What It Means For Stocks, International Market

Health First, Revenue Second

Another memo from the Council of Ministers, “DECISION 157/2018: POLICY DIRECTIONS ON CANNABIS” said that “health and safety are primary subject matters and revenue is secondary in the establishment of the ethical industry. This is imperative so revenue matters do not override health and safety concerns.”

As per this document, there will be only five licenses issued. Two of these will be for the cultivation of medical cannabis; the remaining three are for industrial hemp.

It should be noted, however, that cultivation of marijuana for personal consumption as well as smoking cannabis will remain illegal for the time being in Vanuatu. 

American Cannabis Company Selected As Partner 

Dr. Santus Wari, acting director of the Department of Curative & Hospital Services at Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health, commented on the policy move. 

“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.”

Benzinga also learned that, under the new legal framework, the government selected U.S.-based Phoenix Life Sciences International Limited MJMD as a partner.

Per the agreement, the company will be allowed to “bring its line of all-natural, effective medication to the nation through its national health care system,” the company said.

“Phoenix Life is working with internationally recognized doctors and researchers to develop several innovative pipelines of medicinal cannabis products, with the expected first product to treat diabetes."

Diabetes is the highest cost to Vanuatu's single-payer health care system; 13 percent of the population suffers from the disease; and it is the nation's leading cause of death, according to Phoenix Life Sciences. 

Photo by Javier Hasse.

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