South Pacific: Leading Tahiti Political Figure Says Legalize Weed and Sell It to Tourists

Former French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru has said Tahiti should legalize marijuana to sell to European tourists and provide jobs for unemployed youth. Legalization could bring in tens of millions of dollars a year in revenues, he said in an interview with local television station TNTV.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/oscartemaru.jpg
Oscar Temaru (courtesy Jason Brown, Avaiki Nius Agency, via Wikimedia)
Tahiti is the biggest island in French Polynesia, whose foreign affairs, defense, and legal system are governed from Paris. But the islands' lawmakers can change drug laws without permission from the French government.

Temaru is a leading figure in Tahitian politics. As head of the five-party coalition Union for Democracy, he has served as president four times since 2004, being repeatedly ousted by parliamentary foes and then reinstalled in new elections. He is currently a member of parliament and said he plans to introduce legalization legislation later this year.

French Polynesia attracts just under 20,000 foreign visitors a year, and they bring their drug habits with them. Temaru said Tahiti should capitalize on that with pakalolo, the local term for pot.

"Foreigners often arrive at out hotels and ask for paka," Temaru said. "We know there are countries in Europe that have legalized it, like Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, so doing the same thing here could be a way of creating jobs for young people, by allowing them to sell it to foreigners," he told TNTV.

Pakalolo is already a major -- albeit subterranean -- player in the French Polynesian economy, where it thrives in the tropical climate. Police there said they seize over $110 million worth of the herb every year, but believe that represents only a "small fraction" of the trade.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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