Malaysia may soon be the first country in Asia to legalise marijuana for medical use
In an interview with Bloomberg, Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Dr. A Xavier Jayakumar revealed that the cabinet has begun informal talks to weigh in on the medicinal value of the organic drug - which is also known as weed, ganja, or cannabis - in regards to amending relevant laws.
Citing that the legalisation of medical marijuana has already been done in certain countries, Dr. Xavier added that the drug should be allowed to be used for medicinal purposes
"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," he said, as quoted in the Bloomberg report.
Citing a major report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine entitled The Health Effect of Cannabis and Cannabinoids, Asian Correspondent wrote that cannabis is extremely effective in treating chronic pain as well as chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.
However, he admitted that garnering support for the move will be an "uphill battle", as the Ministry of Health is yet to be convinced of the medicinal value of marijuana
"It will take a bit of encouragement and convincing as far as this topic is concerned," he told Bloomberg.
In addition to Malaysia's zero-tolerance policy, drug trafficking is also punishable by death in other Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. Moreover, existing laws make little distinction between organic drugs like marijuana and hard drugs like cocaine.
The debate on usage of medicinal marijuana arose following public outrage surrounding the death sentence handed to a 29-year-old man who was convicted of possessing, processing, and distributing medicinal cannabis oil
Under Malaysia's Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, individuals who are caught possessing 200 grams or more of cannabis can be charged under drug trafficking, which carries a mandatory death penalty.
Muhammad Lukman, who was arrested in 2015, was found to be in possession of three litres of cannabis oil and 279g of compressed cannabis.
Following 29-year-old Muhammad Lukman's conviction, Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah pledged to write an appeal to Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to seek a pardon for the father of one. Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad also called for a review of the case.
It is worth noting that Malaysia is not the only country in Asia that is looking into decriminalising medical marijuana
Drawing inspiration from countries like Australia, Germany, UK, Canada as well as several states in the US, Bloomberg reported that a unit under Thailand's Ministry of Public Health is working on persuading its government to approve a study of the organic drug in hopes of developing its own medical pot sector.
Do you think marijuana should be legalised for medical use in Malaysia? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Apart from the Prime Minister and Nurul Izzah, some Malaysians are also calling for a review into Muhammad Lukman's case: