History of CBD and Cannabis: Fiji
As one of the primary producers of illicit cannabis in Oceania, the Fiji government has dealt with criminal trafficking and cultivation schemes for decades.
Cannabis, CBD, and Fiji
Currently, cannabis is illegal for both recreational and medical use in Fiji. Even possession of trace amounts of marijuana can land an unlucky user prison time, heavy fines, and reduced employment opportunities upon release. On the island of Fiji, all cannabis crime is treated very seriously, since cannabis isn’t distinguished from harder substances like cocaine, meth, and opioids.
It’s believed that cannabis was first introduced to Fiji by indentured servants. Under the indentured labor system, over two million Indians were transported to European colonies as a substitute for slave labor after the abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century.
Seeking a better life, many Indians willingly traveled to Fiji in order to work jobs extracting natural resources. However, many servants were lured into trade ships with the promise of riches and gifts, which turned out not to be true. For every one thousand laborers, it’s estimated that 540 died in the nineteenth century.
Nonetheless, many Indian servants stowed cannabis seeds in their personal belongings during the voyage. Some servants were able to grow cannabis discreetly on large plots of land, using the cannabis strains to perform religious ceremonies or just for recreation.
At the time, the Fiji government referred to cannabis as Indian Hemp. It wasn’t long before officials saw cannabis as a persistent problem among the indentured servants, believing that it caused laziness and fearing its spread to the rest of the population.
In 1907, a new ordinance was introduced to restrict the importation of Indian hemp and all of its derivatives. Over the decades, cannabis became more closely associated with Fiji’s youth, who had taken up the practice of smoking from the Indian servants.
Even after the abolition of indentured servitude, the tradition of smoking cannabis remained an incipient problem in Fiji. Record numbers of young, uneducated, or lower class individuals took up the habit even as the law grew more restrictive.
Since Fiji features a humid, tropical environment year round, cannabis was quick to grow in both wild and domesticated crops. To this day, Fiji remains a major supplier to other neighboring island nations.
There are over three hundred unique islands that are incorporated into Fiji, which makes patrolling difficult for already strained law enforcement agencies. Many families continue to grow plots in rural, isolated regions on small islands that are difficult to access.
Additionally, some law enforcers are corrupt and will accept bribes from tourists. Many enforcers frequent popular tourist towns in order to catch wealthy Americans and Europeans, extorting much more cash than would be gained from levied government fines.
Ultimately, cannabis has deep cultural ties to Indo-Fijians and locals on the islands. Historic pressures have resulted in a situation of complicit economic interactions between local cultivators and corrupt law enforcers.