American visitor apologises for bringing marijuana into Samoa


American citizen John Robert Harden glad to be discharged without conviction

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 16 JANUARY 2018: American citizen John Robert Harden, who pleaded guilty to the possession of marijuana, today apologised to the people of Samoa for his actions.

“I am truly sorry for the people of Samoa for bringing this into your country, there is no excuse for my bringing it into your beautiful country ,” Harden told the Court.

He also said he wants to return to Samoa with his wife for a visit.

“I promise this will never happen again,” said Harden.

Asked if knew the marijuana was forbidden in Samoa, Harden said he did not because this was a surprise trip.

Court order to leave Samoa by tomorrow
In passing sentence, Chief Justice Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu accepted submission from Harden’s lawyer, Lefau Harry Schuster that his client had no intention for any criminal act when he brought 2.5 grammes or one joint of marijuana into the country.

“My decision is to discharge you without conviction, and you are ordered to leave Samoa tomorrow. But that will not be an inconvenience to you because you are scheduled to leave tomorrow,” said Patu.

“You are also ordered to pay ST$200 for Court costs.

Harden was relieved and happy with the leniency the Court has shown in this matter.

Harden arrived in Samoa on the 8 January 2018 and was arrested at Faleolo airport on arrival. According to Lefau, Harden was accompanying his brother in law who was interested in surfing in Samoa.

Leafau said Harden; a 61 year old resident of California, USA depends on marijuana as a painkiller for his arthritis. He said Harden was electrocuted in an accident that almost cost his life and the cause of his ailment, hence the reliance on marijuana.

Harden has never been charged with narcotics, but was convicted to 12 months’ probation in California at the age of 27 for an assault charge.

Patu pointed out to the prosecution and defence that CNN News reported that California has legalised marijuana and he was interested to know whether the defendant if caught in the US with marijuana would have been charged despite the medical certificate.

Prosecution responded that there was no record of such cases.

For Harden, his medical certificate has no worth in Samoa.