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Court takes motion to dismiss case involving CBD oil under advisement

Associate Justice Fiti Sunia
Defense says the statute is old, and CBD isn't an ingredient of marijuana

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Trial Division of the High Court has taken under a advisement a motion this week by defense attorney, Marcellus Talaimalo Uiagalelei — asking to dismiss the government's case against his client, Togamamao Letuligasenoa.

The defendant, who is out on a $2,000 cash bond, was in court yesterday morning for a hearing.

Uiagalelei said the government is charging his client for bringing into the territory a bottle of oil containing CBD (Cannabidiol). According to the government, CBD is a compound found in weed or marijuana plants.

But Uiagalelei argues that the statute under which the government is charging his client, does not consider CBD contraband, and CBD is not considered an ingredient in marijuana.

Associate Justice Fiti Sunia interrupted and asked Uiagalelei about the difference between CBD oil and THC oil (Tetrahydrocannabinol). Uiagalelei said THC oil is one of the ingredients found in marijuana.

He said the statute under which his client is being charged is old, in the way it was written, and nobody knew about this statute until his client was charged.

Uiagalelei believes that because this part of the statute is old, it should be taken out. He argues that there was no actual marijuana found in his client's possession, nor is CBD oil an ingredient of marijuana.

Sunia asked Uiagalelei whether the CBD oil was tested to see if it contained any marijuana ingredients. Uiagalelei said he doesn’t know if any testing was done.

In response to the defense’s motion, Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn said the statute is clear, and the CBD oil found inside the defendant’s bags is an ingredient of marijuana.

She said that despite the defense claim that there was no actual marijuana found in Letuligasenoa’s possession, it was clear from the investigation that the items allegedly found in one of Letuligasenoa’s bags at the airport were a compound of the illegal drug.

Dunn argued that CBD oil contains ingredients found in marijuana, and that’s why Letuligasenoa was charged.

Dunn addressed the defense claim regarding the statute and said, this is the same statute the federal government is using to deal with illegal drugs, and it’s also the same statute that was adopted by American Samoa, word for word, to deal with illegal drugs in the territory.

She said the government strongly believes that Letuligasenoa unlawfully possessed a controlled substance, by having the CBD vape oil inside his luggage.

Letuligasenoa was a passenger on the Hawaiian Airlines flight that arrived the night of Sept. 13, 2018 when Customs agents allegedly found vape oil bottles containing a compound allegedly found in marijuana inside his bag.

According to Dunn, while Customs agents were conducting a regular routine inspection that night, the scanner alerted to one of the bags, which was subsequently searched.

Inside were 4 paraphernalia pipes (Pipes are labeled as 7 pipe hi tech, with marijuana leaf pictures inside, also known as the Twisty Glass Blunt). Customs agents also found two CBD vape oil bottles.

When asked what the pipe was for, Letuligasenoa told Customs agents that the vape oil is poured inside the pipe before smoking it.

He was questioned and afterwards, he was told that the items would be held until Customs got clarification on the legality of the items found.

Letuligasenoa told Customs agents that he had brought the item to the territory more than once and asked why they were holding it, adding that it is legal in Hawaii.

A movement profile retrieved from the Attorney General’s Office (AG) for Letuligasenoa shows that he departed the territory on Sept. 10, 2018 and returned Sept. 13, 2018.

The 4 pipes found in his luggage are commonly used in the mainland to smoke marijuana, and not commonly found in the territory.