ACT News


Kava exemption may be extended

The ACT government will consider future exemptions that allow for kava consumption after a trial at the National Multicultural Festival was deemed a success.

The government bowed to community pressure and permitted a three-day exemption for kava to be served to Pacific islanders after lobbying by the community.

But the trial was conditional with a warning that supplying kava recklessly or outside cultural norms would jeopardise future exemptions.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the government would work with the Pacific islander community in the coming months to discuss future cultural uses of kava in the territory.

''I personally visited the kava tent during the Multicultural Festival, whilst I was offered to join the circle I declined as I was working,'' Ms Gallagher said.

''The feedback I have received from health protection staff is that on the whole there were no major issues. It seems that the exemption was a sensible compromise.''


Under the trial, the Pacific islander community promised not to supply kava to the general public.

Canberra Tongan community leader and spokesman for the Australian Kava Movement Siosiua Lafitani Tofua'ipangai said it was difficult.

''It's very rude not to offer kava; … you would normally only not offer kava after a request if they are your enemy at a time of war,'' Mr Tofua'ipangai said.

''The Fijians, in particular, found it really hard not to offer kava to people, but we managed to control it.''

He said the islander community was still working to resolve the discrepancies around kava consumption in the ACT.

''We have approached the High Court and we're preparing for filing the court case on the ban of kava in according to their procedures,'' he said.

Kava was declared a prescription-only drug in 2004 because of concerns about substance abuse in some Northern Territory indigenous communities.

An exemption was made for aqueous kava extracts used for cultural purposes but revoked in 2008.

Drug scheduling decisions made by federal authorities are automatically adopted under ACT law so there is a discrepancy between Commonwealth and territory laws; people may import up to two kilograms of the raw kava root for personal use under Commonwealth Customs law.

But its use is restricted under territory medicines law, so users need a prescription to consume kava legally.