Legislators in the U.S. territory of American Samoa are looking for sources of additional funding to match approved U.S. funding, and one of their internal suggestions for raising funds is to possibly legalize medical cannabis.
The territory is searching for a source of funding to match the amount of $84 million allocated by the United States. Congress is willing to contribute that amount to the territory only if the leaders of American Samoa can match it. According to Radio New Zealand, the territory needs to raise an additional $30 million, and among other ideas, Medicaid Director Sandra King Young suggested that the territory could either implement a sales tax to raise money or legalize medical cannabis.
“The other idea was legalizing medicinal marijuana and then using 100 percent of those taxes for medical but I know that can be a controversial issue and again that is a decision for the legislature,” Young said. “Otherwise I don’t really know where else we can create new money.” The House Budget and Appropriations Committee also proposed revoking a wage tax.
Currently, cannabis is illegal in American Samoa, and cannabis possession and distribution can still lead to time in prison. According to Marijuana Policy Project, American Samoa’s laws on cannabis are some of the harshest throughout the U.S., with up to a $5,000 fine for being convicted of possession, and up to five years in prison.
American Samoa is home to a population of approximately 50,000, which is the smallest population of all U.S. territories, and only slightly below the population count of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Northern Mariana Islands legalized medical and recreational cannabis in 2018 under House Bill 20-178. Although it has taken two years for the territory’s cannabis program to be built, its progress as a territory with legal cannabis could help pave the way for American Samoa’s future as well.