IPOH, Dec 26 — The Health Ministry will consider legalising marijuana for medical use if pharmaceutical firms can demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of the substance that is currently classified as a narcotic.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said firms wishing to venture into medical marijuana must submit dossiers with the necessary information to prove its efficacy in treating medical conditions.
While he acknowledged the advances that have been made in the field elsewhere, Dr Lee said the federal government must perform its own due diligence.
“(The ministry) can consider it based on a particular indication (although) there are a lot of studies mainly on cancer, pain relief and depression but we want to look at the evidence itself,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after launching a gotong-royong programme at Kampung Rapat Jaya Tambahan here, Dr Lee said his ministry cannot take steps to consider medical marijuana in Malaysia until pharmaceutical firms register their evidence with the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency.
Dr Lee also warned the firms that marijuana, which is also known as cannabis and ganja, remained illegal under both the Poisons Act and Dangerous Drug Act unless they register with the authorities for medical use.
When asked if pharmaceutical companies could use the results of foreign studies, Dr Lee said this was not possible in the case of marijuana due to its high profile.
He also said the specifics of these trials may not be completely in line with the products that pharmaceutical firms planned for Malaysia.
“Sometimes, the studies conducted uses different dosage for different indications. If we want to use it as medicine, there must be a standard in the preparation and dosage aspect,” he added.
The federal government said it would consider legalising medical marijuana shortly after it intervened in the case of Muhammad Lukman who had been providing processed marijuana extracts for free to chronically ill and terminal patients.
He was sentenced to death under the DDA in August, but this has been deferred by the federal government.
Possession of more than 200g of marijuana still attracts the death penalty upon conviction despite the government’s plan to repeal capital punishment.
Elsewhere in the region, interest in medical marijuana is also growing due to both its increasing prevalence in the West as well as the economic potential that remains untapped.
Thailand recently approved marijuana for medical use and research, the first country in the region to do so.