Founder of the Cirque du Soleil investigated in Tahiti for cannabis cultivation

Canadian entrepreneur Guy Laliberté, 60, founder of the Cirque du Soleil circus company, has been taken into custody in French Polynesia over claims of cannabis cultivation.

He was being held by authorities in Tahiti. Laliberté is a medical cannabis user. He was being questioned over cannabis grown for personal use on his private island of Nukutepipi in the French collectivity of islands in the South Pacific. The Center de Consultations Specialisées en Alcoologie et Toxicomanie, a French Polynesian drug and alcohol addiction service associated with the health ministry, says on its website that planting cannabis, even for personal consumption, is illegal. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Laliberte “categorically denies and dissociates himself from” any rumours about his sale or trafficking of controlled substances,” officials said.

Cirque du Soleil (from spectacle)

Laliberté appeared before a judge in French Polynesia on Wednesday over claims of cannabis cultivation. “The disproportionate importance given to this matter, which is generally trivialized for someone in possession of several plants of cannabis for strictly personal use, greatly surprises me,” Laliberté said in a statement. Under the French penal code, sentences related to cannabis can vary depending on the charge from a maximum of one year in jail for consumption to a maximum of 20 years for production or fabrication, along with hefty fines.