Just a couple of days ago, Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise marijuana for medical purposes.
Thailand now joins a number of countries such as Colombia, Israel, Denmark, Britain, and certain U.S. states who have legalized the use of marijuana for medical and research purposes.
This has spark question on where Malaysia stand when it comes to marijuana.
Did You Know Marijuana is Sort of Legal in Malaysia?
Recently, Muhammad Lukman, who was previously sentenced to death for possessing and distributing medical marijuana, has escaped the punishment following the announcement by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman on 12 October 2018.
The moratorium came after another minister revealed last month that the Cabinet has begun informal talks on the medicinal value of marijuana, also known as cannabis.
If legalised, Malaysia will become the first country in Asia to decriminalise medical marijuana.
Before going into the debate of whether it should be legalized or not, let’s first understand cannabis and it’s medical property.
What is Cannabis?
Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant and contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which affects the mind and mood.
The THC can give users a “chilled out” feeling but it can also cause hallucinations and make people feel paranoid and panicked.
It is normally smoked but can also be eaten.
What is Medicinal Cannabis?
Cannabis also contains cannabidiol (CBD) which scientists are investigating as a medical treatment.
CBD-based treatments have shown some promising results for reducing seizures in children with severe epilepsies.
There is currently little scientific evidence on the safety and effectiveness of these plants as a treatment for epilepsy, but active ingredients to can also cure cancerous cells.
What Are The Health Benefits of Marijuana?
Over the years, research has yielded results to suggest that marijuana may be of benefit in the treatment of some conditions.
A review by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine of the US found that marijuana, or products containing cannabinoids which are the active ingredients in marijuana is effective at relieving chronic pain.
Studies also show that marijuana may help people with alcohol or opioid dependencies to fight their addictions.
Apart from that, many scientific works that have investigated the use of marijuana agreed that it can treat symptoms of mental illness.
That being said, they caution that marijuana is not an appropriate treatment for some other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and psychosis.
There is some evidence to suggest that marijuana might alleviate symptoms of social anxiety.
Finally, evidence suggests that oral cannabinoids are effective against nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
Some small studies have found that smoked marijuana may also help to alleviate these symptoms.
What Are The Side Effects of Marijuana?
Marijuana produces a range of psychological and physical effects that can be unpredictable at times.
Regular recreational cannabis use increases the risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia.
This risk is higher if it is used by teenagers and younger people as the drug interferes with the development of the still-growing brain.
Long-term use can also affect the ability to learn and concentrate.
About 10% of regular users of cannabis become addicted to the drug.
Effects of using the drug can include a feeling of happiness and relaxation but it can also make users feel sick, faint and sleepy and cause memory loss.
What Does our Malaysian Law Say About Marijuana?
Marijuana is classified as a highly dangerous drug in Malaysia.
Also, Malaysia has been labelled as one of the world’s toughest countries when it comes to drugs
However, our drug law allows and criminalises marijuana at the same time.
Take Lukman, the medical marijuana distributor case for instance.
He was convicted under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 for trafficking a dangerous drug, which led to his death sentence.
However, Sections 4 to 6 of the same Act also allows the importation, exportation, and possession of marijuana with the approval of the Health Minister.
The Minister is also empowered under Section 6B to allow “public officers” to plant or cultivate marijuana for these reasons:
- Or medical purposes.
Moreover, marijuana is a Group B poison under the Poisons Act 1952. Under Section 21 of the Act, marijuana can be sold by people in these professions:
- Registered medical practitioner for treatment of a patient,
- Dental surgeons (excluding dentists) for treatment of dental patient,
- Veterinary officer for treatment of animals only,
- And a licensed pharmacist with a prescription from professionals listed above.
What are The Punishments For Illegal Use of Marijuana in Malaysia?
Supplying cannabis in Malaysia can lead to a 14-year jail term or an unlimited fine regardless of whether you are a citizen or foreigner.
Death penalty for illegal use of drug in Malaysia is still legal for now.
Two foreigners were sentenced to hanging in 1986 for transporting heroin in Malaysia once.
The penalty depends on the amount of the drug, the person’s criminal history and other aggravating or mitigating factors.
Police can also issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine of £90 to someone found with cannabis.
Alternatively, officers could issue a cannabis warning which goes on a person’s record but is not revealed by a standard criminal record check.
So, What is The Future For Marijuana in Malaysia?
The legal status of medical marijuana has been gazetted into law even before Malaysia’s independence, it has yet to be enforced.
As reported by Bloomberg, Malaysia’s challenge in allowing medical marijuana is to draft laws that are specific enough to differentiate the uses of the drug.
There is also a lack of research on the medical use of marijuana, according to Health director-general Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah.
Nonetheless, he hinted at the possibility of studying the drug in Malaysia.
As far as research is concerned, it can be used even if the drug is not registered in the country.
The Ministry can give an exemption for its use in research.
Do you think the legal status of medical marijuana in Malaysia should be enforced? Let us know in the comments below.
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