Malaysia may consider legalising medical marijuana

September 28, 2018

Malaysia is starting to discuss the legalisation of marijuana for medical use. If put through, it will be the first Asian country to do so.

The debate comes about after the public outrage over a death penalty handed to a 29-year-old man for distributing medicinal cannabis oil. For now, the focus is on overturning a death sentence.

The Cabinet “very briefly” discussed the medicinal value of marijuana in a meeting last week and has started early and informal talks on amending the relevant laws, Water, Land, and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar said in an interview on Tuesday in Putrajaya, the country’s government centre.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said the verdict and relevant law should be reviewed in the country, where Muslims make up more than half of the population.

“It will take a bit of encouragement and convincing as far as this topic is concerned,” he said at his office. “My own personal view is that if it’s got medicinal value, then it can be a controlled item that can be used by Ministry of Health for prescription purposes.”

Canada currently leads the medical pot sector, with a cannabis industry worth more than US$60bil (RM250bil) ahead of legalising cannabis use next month. Germany and a few US states are starting to emulate the country.

In South-East Asia, drug trafficking is a serious crime, often punishable by death, with little distinction made between marijuana and hard drugs like cocaine. Indonesia has faced global censure for executing drug traffickers, while Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war has left at least 4,000 dead since he took office.

However, Malaysia isn’t the only Asian country looking into medical marijuana.Thailand’s Government Pharmaceutical Organisation is trying to persuade its military government to approve a study of the drug so it can market it for medical use.

The challenge for Malaysia, which still imposes capital punishment for some drug trafficking offences, is how to draft new laws that are specific enough to differentiate marijuana for medical as opposed to recreational and other uses.

The Ministry of Health remains skeptical about the medicinal value of cannabis due to lack of proof, comments Xavier.

He would have to campaign to ministers for more support, consider public opinion on the matter, and hold formal discussions with the ministries overseeing health, environment, and trade.

“It’s already been done in certain countries,” Xavier said. “If it’s going to be used for medicinal purposes, it can be used. Not for social purposes, for medicinal purposes – yes, it should be allowed to be used.”



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