Smoke and mirrors: understanding the rise of medical marijuana as a ‘treatment’ for diabetes in Vanuatu
By Lana Elliott With the hope that the dust seems to have finally settled on Vanuatu’s diabetes ‘treatment’-intended medical cannabis project, it is now worth examining how these unlikely notions became strange bedfellows in the Melanesian nation. As a political economist, one cannot help but consider the absurdity of this scenario through Punctuated-Equilibrium theory. This theory explains how issues gain and lose public and political attention, building our understanding of policy stability and reform.
However, before jumping into political theory, it is first helpful to understand what is known about the rise of this industry in Vanuatu and how the purported ‘healthcare solutions’ company, Phoenix Life Sciences International (PLSI), entered the picture.
The cultivation of marijuana is nothing new. However, in the last decade, the drug’s therapeutic properties have been recognised by health bodies for the control of a number of specific conditions. In response to legalisation in a handful of nations, the medical marijuana market has boomed. This boom had largely skirted the edges of the Pacific until 2018 when foreign companies claimed to be putting pen-to-paper on medical marijuana cultivation deals with the government of Vanuatu. With corporations linked to shonky characters and previously failed business ventures, this came as a surprise to much of the nation where the recreational use of marijuana is often stigmatised. Yet in response, a number of political leaders acknowledged the nation was open to considering structured partnerships in cannabis production, particularly given Tropical Cyclone Pam’s implications on the national economy. Given this news and Vanuatu’s prime climate for cultivation, the flood gates were open.
In November 2018, through his role as Acting Director of Curative and Hospital Services, Dr Santos Wari, who would go on to become PLSI’s National Head of Healthcare, championed an exemption to the nation’s Dangerous Drugs Act, allowing …read more