Marijuana Media: French Polynesia scoop – New medical cannabis law will allow tourist Cannabis Health Clubs


An interview with Phil Cathelain of Syndicat Polynesien du Chanvre about Tahiti’s new law that will allow medical use, hemp, CBD, and a trial of tourist-oriented cannabis health resorts, this week on Marijuana Media on 95bFM with Chris Fowlie from NORML and Jonny from bFM Drive – thanks to The Hempstore!


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In the local media this week, aside from John Campbell’s admission on 1News he used to smoke shitty weed as a teenager, there was just the usual parade of depressing evidence pointing to the abject failure of prohibition: two men on trial alleged to have intimidated a small-time cannabis dealer into falling to his death from his 12th story apartment balcony; Stuff covering the trial of a small-time cocaine dealer who jumped from a motorway overpass to avoid capture by the law; in the ODT the trial of a gunman who shot at a man and a teenage girl over a suspected drug debt; while the NZ Herald and NewstalkZB covered journalist Benedict Collins’ new book on the story behind the meth testing ‘scam’ in which thousands of people were wrongly evicted from social housing the last time National was in power.

Drug expert Dr Chris Wilkins of Massey University said New Zealand was now so “awash” in methamphetamine that Act’s new policy of reversing the ban on pseudoephedrine would have little effect. So far, that’s the only drug- or alcohol-related policy mentioned publicly as perhaps being in the coalition agreement. So far, so depressing.

At least there has been no talk (yet) emerging from the coalition talks, held at the Cordis Hotel up the road from the 95bFM studio, of changing all the positive things achieved under the previous government such as the semi-decriminalisation approach of legislating police discretion, legalising pill testing, or the medical cannabis scheme. Give thanks for that.

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But let’s put aside all that depressing crapola. This week, we’re talking cannabis in Tahiti!

Cannabis grows year round in French Polynesia. This was on Huahine motu. (Photo: Chris Fowlie)

We are joined in the studio by Phil Cathelain, head of Syndicat Polynesien du Chanvre (Polynesian Hemp Union), the leading cannabis law reform group of French Polynesia, based in Papeete, Tahiti.

Phil was here in Aotearoa on vacation and came on the show with a scoop: he had just been informed French Polynesia’s government had agreed to “everything we asked for”, in a new drug law that will allow medical use, local production of hemp and CBD, and an experimental trial of legalisation for adult use.

I was introduced to Phil by Karl Anihia of Tahiti Herb Culture, who had hosted me on their island paradise and introduced me to growers and other contacts there. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each of my visits to Tahiti and F.P. They’ve got it all: beautiful island paradises, great herb, and love of reggae, great food, weather and that French je ne sais quoi.

Scoring herb there is easy. In fact, once word got around, I was getting free gifts left on the doorstep every day. But enforcement, like here, is uneven and highly discriminatory. People with French heritage rarely get arrested, but the gendarmes pick on the locals and growing pot often leads to jail.

A few years ago, Karl defiantly planted chanvre on the parliament grounds. The cannabis activist and green fairy provider was arrested. Phil heard this on the news and asked his lawyer to help get Karl out of jail. They then joined forces to form SPC, bringing together consumers and patients and – crucially, says Phil, who is himself a well-connected turf farmer – businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, the politically active and “all the top companies”.

Members of SPC (Photo credit:

Phil said the previous government had ignored their group, but that all changed earlier this year when former independence movement leader Moetai Brotherson was elected President.

Brotherson was open to SPC’s argument that French Polynesia (which did not allow medical use, cbd or hemp) should have the same rights of access as France itself (which did allow all these) and was further persuaded to allow medical cannabis and hemp for regional development and to boost self-sufficiency in medicines and foods.

On the show, Phil talked about how their campaign succeeded – and what it means for locals who have customary uses including THC coconut oil massages for pain relief, and for tourists who Phil says would be welcome to visit Cannabis Health Clubs under their new law because it aims to support regional development.

Tahiti Herb Culture – indoor-grown is up there with the best (Photo: Chris Fowlie)

Phil and the Syndicat Polynesien du Chanvre are also looking to partner with Kiwi suppliers of genetics and medicinal products. They anticipate producing herbal formulations there, and importing pharmaceutical-type products from here. When the new law takes effect, there will effectively be a South Pacific Cannabis Free Trade Zone encompassing Australia, New Zealand, Cook Islands and French Polynesia. Vanuatu and Fiji might join too.

I’m looking forward to another visit – and hoping our local triumvirate leaders stay locked away in that hotel room for another three years.

Thanks to Phil Cathelain for joining us on the show and sharing this scoop, unreported in any other media so far. Listen to the Marijuana Media potcast for the full interview.

Coming up:

  • NORML & The Hempstore present J Day: Saturday 2 December in Albert Park, high noon to 4:20. Details here.
  • First Thursdays Double Kirihimete Special: Thurs 7th with substance testing at The Hempstore, 3-7pm, thanks to the NZ Drug Foundation (or find a testing clinic here) and Thurs 21st December with SANG Band live and free Terp & Co tastings.


Marijuana Media airs every Thursday at 4:20pm on 95bFM, with your hosts bFM Drive’s Jonny and Chris Fowlie from The Hempstore. Stream or download the pot-cast for this show here or hundreds of previous Marijuana Media shows at (or via iTunes / RSS feed). Thanks to The Hemp Store!


  1. Great going @ Chris Fowlie. More you’s , less Stooges.
    Perhaps the reason behind not decriminalising Pot is one of money. Until there’s a financial mechanism to restrict pot to licensed suppliers ( Think booze.) then the cops, who it should now be obvious are owned by the banks and insurers will crack your skull then steal your stash if you can’t produce a license. ( Oh? Wait a minute..? )
    ‘Money’ , as such, is surely the most damaging and addictive substance out there. Just look at the damage it does to societies globally. It induces psychopathies, addictions, suffering, pain, murder, wars and societal and family violence. Money turns friend against friend, whanau against whanau and if we barely have enough then factors and systems change we’ll become so anxious and afraid we’ll barely function. And if you look around, everything, except the air you breath, is costing you. Soon, water will cost you and you can’t get more basic than the need for free and clear access to drinkable water. Are we soon going to have to buy oxygen? Oxygen wars! Imagine that? ” Pssst…? Wanna buy a puff of fresh mountain air..? ” If money keeps doing what it’s doing there won’t be fresh air anywhere except perhaps the filtered air piped into the billionaire bunker people’s bunkers.
    What this cannabis debate is really showing us is how weak we are and how vulnerable we are and that’s like handing secret marketing strategies over to our rich abusers. And guess who makes our abusers rich thus powerful? We do. That’s who. In a neo-liberal system installed by the rich to exploit us such as ours, we allow that to happen and indeed if the last election was anything to go by we even vote for them to make life ever harder for us.
    I really have to take my hat off to Professor Stanley Milgram. Talk about a visionary.
    Stanley Milgram (August 15, 1933 – December 20, 1984) was an American social psychologist, best known for his controversial experiments on obedience conducted in the 1960s during his professorship at Yale.[2]

  2. Totally agree Nathan…if a ‘yes’ went thru life could be different for us in NZ.
    We live in hope one day it will happen.

    • Katy Pai – Thank you…I truly believe that Cannabis will be freely available in NZ for all Adults within 25 years…if not, a lot sooner.

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