Tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu hopes to draw hemp investors

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The government of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is looking to attract foreign investors and operators to develop medical cannabis and industrial hemp production for export-only after recently finalizing cannabis regulations.

Under the new rules, companies interested in entering Vanuatu must pay 10 million Vatu ($84,000) for a ten-year license, and must have 10 years’ experience in cannabis growing.

Five licenses available

The government said it will dole out at least five licences, two for medicinal cannabis and three for hemp production. Industrial hemp will be limited to five islands – Efate, Santo, Malekula, Tanna and Erromango – while medical cannabis will be restricted to Efate, Santo and Malekula.

Vanuatu passed a Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Act in 2021, but only recently set specific regulations.

Moses Amos, chairman of the parliamentary Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Advisory Committee, said the 10-year licensing structure is intended to ensure high standards for production and guarantee that Vanuatu workers gain experience in the industry.

Broad rules framework

“The scenario would be that after 10 years of working with a foreign investor, any Vanuatuan would be in a position to engage in that activity,” Amos said.

Amos said rules govern the entire cannabis and hemp supply chain, from importation of seeds to cultivation, production, manufacturing and export.

Vanuatu, with a population of about 320,000, is a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometers. The country’s economy is primarily agricultural, with 80% of the population engaged in subsistence and smallholder farming of copra, coconuts, timber, beef, cocoa and other cash crops.

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