MALAYSIA has a reputation for its zero-tolerance on drug-trafficking, but now the nation is entering the race to become the first in Asia to legalise marijuana for medical purposes.
The government has begun informal talks to weigh in on marijuana last week to determine the value of the organic drug, in a discussion that could alter existing laws that impose lengthy jail terms and even the death penalty.
Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Xavier Jayakumar told Bloomberg that Cabinet had talked “very briefly” on the matter last week, citing examples of marijuana legislation in western countries.
“It’s already been done in certain countries, and in certain states in America,” Xavier was quoted as saying.
“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.”
Public debate on the drug came in wake of the death sentence handed to a 29-year-old father of one, Muhammad Lukman, who was caught distributing cannabis oil, mostly for cancer patients.
Under the country’s Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, individuals caught possessing 200 grams or more of cannabis can be charged under drug trafficking, which carries the mandatory death penalty.
The recent conviction and sentencing had also prompted Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to call for a review of the existing drug laws.
Other prominent lawmakers such as Nurul Izzah Anwar had pledged to seek a pardon for the death row inmate.
Health officials in neighbouring Thailand are persuading the military government to allow studies to be conducted on the drug for medical use. The medical marijuana sector is thriving as a multibillion-dollar industry in Canada.
“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,” Xavier said.
A major report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine entitled, “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids”, found that cannabis was extremely effective in treating chronic pain, especially for those suffering from multiple-sclerosis. It is also effective for treating chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.