Vicar-General Monsignor Lutoviko Fīnau

Vicar-General Monsignor Lutoviko Fīnau of Roman Catholic church has warned that the government’s dealing  with a proposal to cultivate hemp in Tonga could push the nation to the brink of danger.

In Tongan he said: ” [Ke] vakai [e pule’anga’] fakalukufua ki he a’usia tamaki ‘e kaitamaki ai e kakai e fonua.”

The family and nofo-‘a-kāinga (concept of Tongans living as an extended family) could be damaged, he said.

Monsignor Fīnau said the people find it very difficult to deal with the issue as there were reasons provided but they had yet to see the results.

“I wish the government not just focus on only one side of it but also consider the consequence,” he told Kaniva news.

Critics’ concerns intensified after it has been alleged the proposal came from people who were currently facing high profile illicit drugs dealing cases in court.

A leaked confidential cabinet memorandum showed the government apparently approved a decision to seek Attorney General’s advice on the matter on October 17 just two weeks after the new cabinet was officially appointed by the king.

The concerns came after the former government rejected what appeared to be the same proposal which was submitted by some lobbyists from The Brown group.

Critics said the fact that the cabinet has put the proposal on
its agenda was of great concerns given that Tonga was currently facing a huge
battle on drugs and the former government said in July it was one of its
highest priorities.

Chief Secretary clarifies

The Chief Secretary Edgar Cocker said the memorandum was an amendment to note the proposal “to proceed with and based on the advice of the Attorney General’s Office – to do consultation.”

He said this means nothing has been approved.

“We are now waiting for the written advice from the Attorney
General,” he said.

When Kaniva news queried the wording of the memorandum using the word “approved” as it appeared in the leaked document as – “Recommendation is approved, as amended.”

Cocker said: “The answer is a no no.”

“Will never be approved in Cabinet, not in Parliament and
definitely not in Privy Council.”

Hemp and cannabis

Hemp and cannabis are variants of cannabis. Cannabis
contains the drug tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which gets people high. Hemp is
used to make clothes, rope and other items.

In 2018 President Trump signed a Farm Bill which classified
hemp as an agricultural product in the United States. Under the Bill, any
cannabis plant with less then 0.3% THC is considered hemp, not marijuana.

Marijuana also contains Cannabidiol (CBD) which is legal in
New Zealand. It is described as having potential therapeutic value, with little
or no psychoactive properties.

The New Zealand Ministry of Health was developing a plan to
enable domestic commercial cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis.
The plan is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2020.


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