Use of hemp, cannabis or ketum for medical purposes punishable in Malaysia until legalised, says deputy minister

·3-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 — Malaysians found using cannabis, hemp, ketum or any of its by-products for medical reasons will still be prosecuted, says Deputy Health Minister I Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali.

He said until the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952 is amended, anyone who is caught using these products, despite it being only for medical purposes, would still be committing a crime.

Azmi was responding to a question from Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman in Parliament today where the former youth and sports minister asked what would happen to people currently using CBD oil, hemp or ketum for treatment.

“Even Indonesia is beginning to discuss cultivating cannabis in the industrial and medical hemp sector, but for us, we may only see it happening next year. Meanwhile there are people who are already using these products for health,” Syed Saddiq said.

“Is there a way we can allow doctors to prescribe these medicines now without being charged with a crime? We all know there are already many Malaysians using these products, but if caught, it is considered criminal.”

Azmi agreed with Syed Saddiq, admitting that there are benefits to using medical cannabis to treat depression, epilepsy, cancer and other ailments, but stressed that until Malaysian laws are amended, the government’s hands are tied.

He said Malaysia is behind the curve when it comes to this industry and the only way forward would be to change the interpretation of the law and make special provisions for the use of cannabis, hemp and ketum.

“As long as we are stuck with these laws from the past, we can’t do anything. That’s why we need everyone’s cooperation to amend them. It’s been a long time since studies have shown that the products I mentioned earlier can be used and are successful in treating certain illnesses.

“The problem is a stigma still exists when we mention ganja or marijuana which have psychotic elements and contains THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). So when you mention those words, people think it is bad. And I am aware that many patients are benefitting from these medicines, and we should find a way to look after them.

“I heard that the parliamentary caucus on medical marijuana led by you had a fruitful meeting with the prime minister and he is encouraged by the committee’s findings so kudos to you on that.

“We hope this committee can pave the way for the use of medical cannabis and ketum in Malaysia in due time,” he concluded.

The committee on medical marijuana was formed in October 2021.

The caucus would be meeting with health experts, researchers, industry stakeholders, NGOs as well as related ministries to look into related policy formulation.

It is made up of MPs from various parties, such as Malaysian United Democratic Alliance, Umno, PAS, Parti Warisan Sabah, DAP, Parti Amanah Negara, PKR and Gabungan Parti Sarawak. Others in the group include Pengerang MP and the prime minister’s special adviser (law and human rights) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, Khalid Samad (Shah Alam), Datuk Dr Xavier Jayakumar Arulanandam (Kuala Langat), Datuk Ignatius Darell Leiking (Penampang), Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen (Bandar Kuching, Dr Azman Ismail (Kuala Kedah), Lukanisman Awang Sauni (Sibuti) and Ahmad Fadhli Shaari (Pasir Mas).

Malaysia has very strict drug laws. Section 6 of the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) 1952 prohibits the possession of cannabis, an offence punishable with imprisonment of up to five years, or a fine not exceeding RM20,000.

Under Section 39A of the same law, those found with over 50g are punishable with a jail term of at least five years and at least 10 strokes of the rotan.

Ketum is an indigenous plant with opioid properties and mild stimulant effects. It is sometimes used in the treatment of chronic pain, anxiety, depression and insomnia.