Malaysia set to become first Asian country to legalise medicinal marijuana

09:37 PM | 26 Sep, 2018
Malaysia set to become first Asian country to legalise medicinal marijuana
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia is racing to become the first Asian country to legalise marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The government has started the discussion among its ranks over the matter of legalising some specific narcotics after public outrage in South-east Asian country over a death penalty handed to a 29-year-old man convicted of possessing, processing and distributing medicinal marijuana oil.

Last week, the Malaysian cabinet "very briefly" discussed the medicinal value of marijuana in a meeting after which it started early and informal talks on amending the relevant laws, said Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Xavier Jayakumar told Bloomberg.

Xavier said the government is thinking to overturn death sentence handed to man and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has also expressed the verdict and law should be reviewed in the country, where Muslims make up more than half of the population.

On 30 August, the Shah Alam High Court sentenced Muhammad Lukman,29, to death by hanging, after he provided cannabis oil to patients who were suffering from ailments that were difficult to treat with legal medicines.

He did not profit from this and would provide cannabis oil for free to patients who could not afford it. Despite the lack of financial gain from his endeavour, his offences fall under section 39B of Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. This stipulates that “Any person who traffics an illegal drug shall be guilty of an offence against this Act and shall be punished on conviction with death”.

Canada has taken the lead in developing the medical marijuana sector, creating an industry worth more than $60 billion ahead of legalising marijuana use next month. Germany and a few US states are taking its example.

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In the South-east Asian region, drug trafficking is often punishable by death, with little distinction made between marijuana and hard drugs like cocaine.

Malaysia isn't alone in looking into the medical marijuana industry. Thailand's Government Pharmaceutical Organisation, a unit of its Ministry of Public Health, 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 offenses, is how to draft new laws that are specific enough to differentiate marijuana for medical as opposed to recreational and other uses.

Medical cannabis or medical marijuana is  cannabis that is recommended by doctors for their patients to reduce nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, improve appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and reduce chronic pain and muscle spasms.

The use of cannabis as medicine has not been rigorously tested due to production restrictions and other governmental regulations.