Malaysia wants to take inspiration from Thailand in move to legalize medical marijuana: health ministry official

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Although possession of cannabis can still potentially be punished by death in Malaysia, government officials seem serious about legalizing it for medical purposes. And to create a legal framework for its legalization, they will look to take lessons from neighbouring Thailand’s cannabis laws, a health ministry official said yesterday.

The statement follow news that the Thai health minister will be meeting with his Malaysian counterpart at the APEC meeting of health ministers in Bangkok next week, during which Thailand will present its finding on the impact of medical marijuana legalization.

Thailand, which has a long history of using cannabis to relieve pain and stress, legalised medicinal marijuana in 2018 and became the first country in Asia to decriminalise marijuana production and its consumption in food and drink.

“We are developing our own framework for the usage of cannabis for medical purposes, and want to learn from Thailand,” the Malaysian official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

He noted that the Malaysian government was eager to learn from Thailand’s framework for medical use.

Marijuana cultivation and recreational use are officially prohibited in Malaysia, and anyone found in possession of 200 kilograms of the substance will be sentenced to death.

However, according to Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, if medical marijuana were registered and licenced with the Drug Control Authority, it would be legal to import and use it with a doctor’s prescription.

In April, Khairy declared that the government supported clinical research on the use of cannabidiol, sometimes referred to as CBD, a component of cannabis that does not cause users to feel “high,” for medical purposes.

State news agency Bernama said last month that, although clearance for cultivation is still a ways off, the Health Ministry planned to start registering some cannabidiol products next year after researching their safety.

There was no immediate comment from Malaysia’s law minister.

The top advocate of Thailand’s legalisation of cannabis for medical use, Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul, predicts the sector will be worth more than US$3 billion (RM13.4 billion) in five years.

“Topics of discussion will be on how to jointly move forward this kind of policy in order to create benefits, economically and medically,” he told a news conference in Bangkok.

“We want everyone to recognise the property of this cannabis plant,” he said today. “The more people are interested in this field, the more development and research (it) will create.”
Thailand has said its cannabis policy covers medical and health purposes but not recreational use, although hastily issued laws have created space for such uses. A bill passed in June removed almost all existing regulations over the substance, allowing for its commercialization.