Candidates take up issue of legalizing hemp in American Samoa
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Agriculture Industry development, including the legalization of an industrial hemp/ CBD industry in American Samoa was another issue raised during one segment of last week’s Chamber of Commerce gubernatorial form and it got a lot of attention from the audience — some quickly telling their neighbors in the audience that hemp refers to marijuana.
But the Chamber’s written explanation outlined in its printed questions — later shared with the news media — as well as responses by some of the candidates gave many in attendance a much broader idea about industrial hemp, which is already a major economic boost in US states that have adopted this provision of the federal law, which is currently overseen by the US Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service (www.nifa.usda.gov).
According to the Chamber information, in 2018 a Farm Bill was passed in the U.S., which legalized at the federal level the production of industrial hemp — which has less than 3% of THC Tetrahydrocannabinol concentration — and already, the market has grown considerably.
The supply of and demand for industrial hemp skyrocketed thanks to a booming cultivation market, and now, hemp-derived CBD products. CBD is a non-psychoactive derivative of hemp that has been shown to have numerous medicinal properties, including aiding in the reduction of pain and inflammation in individuals with chronic arthritis.
“If elected, would you take affirmative action to legalize industrial hemp in American Samoa? Why or why not?” was the question posed to the gubernatorial teams.
Out of the five gubernatorial teams, the three who participated in the forum were: I’aulualo Fa’afetai Talia for governor and Tapaau Dan Mageo Aga as lieutenant governor; Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua for governor and Tapumanaia Galu Satele Jr., for lieutenant governor; and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga for governor and Talauega Eleasalo Alo for lieutenant governor.
The question was first posed to the Lemanu/Talauega team, and it was Lemanu — who responded in Samoan to all questions during the forum — who gave a brief explanation in Samoan, saying many states have legalized this industry including other territories.
With its legalization, Lemanu said it has become an economic boost to those states — such as Colorado, which has high revenue from this industry, resulting in residents not paying certain taxes.
He said the question posed by the Chamber affects the entire population of the territory and each person, as well as churches, has their own opinion on this issue, because legalization of hemp could easily be misused by others for illegal purposes. He said proper planning as well as enforcement of such a law is also an important aspect of an industrial hemp issue. Lemanu said he and Talauega believes this issue should be presented to the public for review, debate and decision.
“I’aulualo and I considered this topic for many, many hours,” was the rebuttal response from Tapaau, adding that, “we have to get the facts and I agree with ...Lemanu, that we have to give serious consideration to the religious and cultural concerns when discussing” such an issue.
He went on to explain, “CBD is an agent that does not get people high. It’s the THC in marijuana that has that affect on people. So when we talk about CBD, please consider that.”
“If, as Lemanu said, that this is presented to the people, let’s be very careful to give them the right information. And anything that has stigma attached to it, we need to be very careful,” Tapaau pointed out.
Tapumanaia, who offered the Nua/Satele rebuttal response, told the audience, “I think first and foremost what needs to be clarified is the difference between Hemp/CBD and marijuana. Although they come from the same plant, the uses are different.”
“The active ingredient in that as mentioned by Tapaau is THC. It was legalized if it has [no more than] 0.3% of THC, it’s legal,” Tapumanaia explained. “So when the Farm Bill was passed it legalized hemp but it didn’t create a system for it to be grown freely.”
And for those who don’t understand, Tapumanaia explained, “Hemp can be used for products such as clothing, construction material, plastic, health food and organic body care. CBD is oil that can be used medically, such as for relaxing, anxiety and depression.”
The Nua/Satele team believes there’s a need for more discussion and that “we will support the facilitation of this discussion and a community discussion,” said Tapumanaia. “So for us, we need to ask the advise of the professionals, so that we can get the regulation that needs to be done, so it can be done properly.”
IMPORTED FOOD RELIANCE
“The pandemic has exposed our reliance on imported food supplies. How do you plan on creating a better local network for local farmers to induce higher production of local produce and become more self reliant?” was the second question under the agriculture industry segment.
The I’aulualo/Tapaau team was first given the question for response. “This is the time especially during COVID-19 [pandemic] to seriously look at local agriculture,” said I’aulualo, who explained that one of his friends invented a machine locally that dries breadfruit to produce flour that will last for five years.
(While I’aulualo didn’t provide more details on his friend and the machine, Samoa News has reported in the past that Swains Island Rep. Su’a Alexander Eli Jennings’ company Dream Builders Agriculture Products invented dryers from retrofitted shipping containers to dry breadfruit, producing gluten-free flour.)
“These are innovative ideas created locally that we need to capitalize on,” said I’aulualo who also said that the government should be spearheading efforts to bring the farmers together and implement a program to incorporate all local farmers.
For Nua and Satele team, Tapumanaia pointed out that agriculture is an occupation for people, and it’s also food security, but it’s also a way of life.
“What we need to do, is go back and re-instill some of the programs that we can do, such as providing seedlings for families to be able to be self-sustaining by growing their own vegetables,” he said. “We want to work with people who want to invest in livestock. We want to also promote and encourage people to get into the establishment of hydroponics farming, empower people to get into aquaculture.”
He said these are some of the things “now available here for us and all we need to do to is make sure that we enhance our people so they can go back to the land. Re-engage people in local farming, self-sustainment — being able to provide for themselves.”
A rebuttal response from Lemanu/Talauega team came from Talauega who noted that agriculture is one of these businesses where there are “tons of small businesses involved.”
Speaking on a personal level, Talauega said his uncle is a farmer, who grows taro and sells to the school lunch program. And most of his relatives in Seetaga village do that too.
He also said that a lot of people in the audience are small business owners — farmers. And while they are probably not part of the Chamber “they are business owners and they produce and they put money into the economy,” Talauega said.
“It’s very important for us to focus on growing our agriculture industry, showing technique and technology so that farmers can be more efficient in how they harvest their taro, how they grow lettuce,” he said, adding that farmers are even growing tomatoes.
“We need to build the infrastructure to entice and encourage our people to become their own bosses, be a farmer, sell your goods right in front of your house or [at] the market,” he added.
Samoa News will report in later edition on other issues from the forum.