An Independent Chuuk Should Legalize Marijuana in order to survive economically.
“Where can I get weed?”, that was the first question a tourist asked me when I was in Chuuk. “I heard the weed here is good”. He was bright eyed and asked openly without fear of anyone hearing. A week later another visitor asked me the same question, “where do we buy weed? I heard Chuukese marijuana is the best.” I told both of them I didn’t know. I also told them it’s illegal.
There are a few things that we can gather from these accounts. Firstly, marijuana in Chuuk has a reputation for quality. Secondly, there seems to be an international demand for the product. A third takeaway is that enforcement on the product is lax, to put it mildly.
Although it is premature to assume that there is a high demand for Chuukese marijuana, consider the advantages of being the only state or independent nation to cultivate the product. If there is a demand why not supply?
There is still some debate about the efficacy of marijuana for medicinal use. However, marijuana has been proven to be useful for many illnesses (treating nausea, as an antidepressant, anesthetic, joint pain, glaucoma, mental health, cancer, and as an appetite stimulant). For safety reasons further research is needed. But for generations marijuana has been used for its medicinal qualities in many cultures.
It has not been proven to be addictive. A major concern for marijuana is that it may disrupt the growth of the human brain, but the same can be said for tobacco and alcohol.
Marijuana is resilient and can grow in most climates. The different strains of the plant offer a variety of options and many plants can grow in our warm tropical climate. Not only is it relatively easy to grow, it has a high yield. Meaning, it produces a high volume of return versus the amount of care it needs to grow.
Compared to other crops that are already being exported from our region marijuana is relatively small. You don’t need a large space to farm a good number of the product. It doesn’t require as much space as coconuts, betelnut and sakau, some of the chief exports from the region.
Other than marijuana we can also look at hemp. Hemp, which is different from marijuana can be used for food, paper, building materials, textiles, and as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastics. You can not get a high from hemp, but due to marijuana's negative reputation this "cousin" of marijuana is illegal in many countries.
We don’t have to look too far to get an idea of how we can use hemp to make products, create jobs, and generate income/revenue. Just look at what’s going on in Kosrae with "Green Banana Paper”.
Other than growing marijuana for personal use, the benefits of manufacturing locally grown medicine would be a big help for pharmacies and the state hospital. At the moment a high number of residents are leaving the islands for medical reasons. Although marijuana won’t be able to treat serious illnesses, it could find use for treating some of the more common ailments described earlier. It could also alleviate wait times at the hospital.
In addition to personal use, creating factories or pharmacies much like the coconut factories we see from Vital Energy can turn the product into a viable export. Many countries and States have introduced legislation to legalize marijuana. Some for medicinal purposes and others for recreation. Chuuk can capitalize on the opportunity by becoming an early option for exports.
Consider for a moment the geography of Chuuk State. It sits in the center of the Pacific. Chuuk could be a major exporter of the product to neighboring islands such as Guam, CNMI, PNG, Fiji, Palau and other countries/islands that may soon legalize marijuana.
For the moment, Guam allows for medical marijuana and there is overwhelming support for the product. However, due to the complicated legal issues with the US federal government, access to the product is difficult. Chuuk is only a few hours away and could export the product at a cheap and fast rate.
The independence movement has listed “agriculture” as a solution for the crippling economy. But they haven’t specified how or by what means.
If we look at Colorado in the United States, their legalization of marijuana has greatly benefited their state’s economy. Much of the success can be attributed to Colorado becoming synonymous with “weed tourism”; a rising category in the tourism industry. An independent Chuuk can mimic their success and become the Paciifc’s premier “weed tourism” destination.
In “Making Sense of an Independent Chuuk, Part 7”, we asked the question, “ what does Chuuk have to offer to negotiate its own compact with the United States?”. Ultimately, the conclusion was, not much.
Let’s consider however, other alternatives to compact funding. We don’t have the location that benefits Palau for tourism. We don’t have the space for military bases such as Guam and the RMI. Chuuk's waters will shrink and will mostly likely be contested by Yap and Pohnpei, so fishing will not yield much. The diving is world class but it’s not enough, neither is it sustainable in the long run. Plus, with the cheaper air-fare to Palau and Yap for Asian tourists and the RMI for westerners, Chuuk is stuck in the middle.
The one location advantage that Chuuk has is to the south, namely PNG and Australia. And with Air Niugini now servicing direct flights from Port Moresby to Chuuk, Chuuk can capitalize on weed tourism. PNG and Australia still have strict laws against marijuana and already have great diving locations in their own waters. What can we offer these two countries that they don't have? Weed tourism.
Let’s take a quick look at Yap and how they’ve marketed coconut oil, advertising it as “remote, isolated, and traditional... local, sustainable, organic... exotic and original... ”. It's a good advertising strategy to make unique an otherwise ubiquitous product, in this case coconut oil, and branding it as "exotic and original".
A similar example can be found with Fiji’s, “Fiji Water”, advertising it as “pure” and, “untouched by man”. Remember, they're selling bottled water. We can take a page out of their marketing strategy and advertise marijuana in Chuuk as, “in the heart of the Pacific” or as a veritable, "escape to the center of Oceania".
Marijuana, hemp, or weed tourism has always been an unlikely option for Chuuk. Given Chuuk’s strong stance on Christian values. How can a religious State endorse “the devil’s flower” as it has been aptly named? Those sentiments were thwarted with the introduction of Bill 14-29, the “online gambling bill”.
Any religious or ethical arguments against marijuana have been thrown out of the window with the introduction of this bill.
Let’s take a quick look at 1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV), “for the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”. Now let’s compare that verse with Genesis 9:3 (KJV), “every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things”. Now, I am not a theologian, but can we make the argument that if Chuuk is willing to endorse gambling, then is it too much of a leap to endorse marijuana, not as “the devil’s flower”, but as, “the green herb” God has given us?
Competition is tough in the tourism industry. Palau has transformed itself into a sponge for tourists. Pohnpei continues to grow as a world class destination for surfing and adventure tourism. "Go back in time", when you visit Yap. Guam and Saipan, a taste of America at half the travel cost. Coconuts, sakau, banana fiber, fisheries, eco-tourism, adventure-tourism all have been tapped by neighboring islands and it will be difficult to compete with them.
There are three things that an independent Chuuk can benefit from by legalizing marijuana.
- Locally grown medicine for personal use and export.
- Hemp as an alternative material for rope, bags, building materials and export.
- Weed tourism.
Up to this point "agriculture" has been an option to boost an independent Chuuk's economy. But the details have been empty. Legalized marijuana can be the solution.