KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 — The government could already provide exemptions for medical marijuana in the country without going through the arduous task of legislating new laws or provisions for this purpose, former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi explained.
Pleading with the government today to swiftly legalise the medical marijuana in Malaysia or at least give immediate exemption for cannabidiol imports, Zaki said the same Dangerous Drugs Act that prohibits narcotics such as marijuana also authorises the minister to grant exemptions for restricted use.
He said this meant the government could react nimbly to developments in the area in which countries such as Thailand and China were already building an advantage in the marijuana (cannabis) industry.
Speaking at a forum titled “Medical Cannabis: Facts & Benefits”, Zaki said it was unfortunate that the government, especially health officials, continued to hold on to conservative and prejudiced views on marijuana.
“To me, if it benefits one, two or three per cent of the population, the government must allow it especially when stronger drugs like morphine and codeine can be prescribed by regular doctors.
“We’re not here to politicise things. but why talk about going to Parliament to amend laws when it’s already there, provisions to use it for specific purposes,” he lamented when arguing that the government should at least allow the importation of cannabidiol (CBD) immediately.
CBD is the extract of the marijuana plant that is used for medical purposes, which differed from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or the compound responsible for the plant’s psychoactive properties.
Earlier this month, Thailand decriminalised marijuana in the country and the industry has drawn interest from companies large and small, attracting more than 1.2 billion baht (RM154.2 million) of investment as they aim to cash in on the legalised cultivation and use of the plants.
Marijuana and hemp were removed from the category 5 narcotics list according to the Thai Food and Drug Administration. To operate a legal marijuana-related business in the country, growers can simply register through the Pluk Kan mobile app.
The global trend towards the legalisation and decriminalisation of marijuana has opened it up to more medical research on CBD as a treatment for pain and inflammation, appetite stimulant for chemotherapy patients, and for muscle spasms and seizures.
During today's forum, advocates of CBD oils shared anecdotes of its benefits as a medical treatment.
One of them, Razak Kamil, shared a short video of his epileptic son ingesting CBD oil nasally to circumvent the onset of a seizure.
In the video, the 13-year-old appeared to be in the early throes of a seizure that was disrupted within 20 seconds of Razak administering the CBD spray.
Despite its demonstrable effectiveness in controlling his son’s epilepsy, Razak said he could not legally procure CBD in Malaysia due to the continued prohibition of marijuana and all its related compounds.
“This is just one case, there are many more who’ve benefited from this but we are denying them the right to good health,” Zaki said when commenting.
“I would like to try CBD as well as I am suffering from peripheral neuropathy in my nerves in and my legs are always numb.”
The former chief justice said being able to use CBD as a substitute for the medicine prescribed to him would be preferable as the latter came with side effects such as constipation that harmed quality of life.
“Over and above my arthritis, I’m 77, I’m not young and as you get older all your joints start to ache so if I take morphine it makes me very, very high, so why can't I take CDB?
“So, please (Health director-general) Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Health Minister (Khairy Jamaluddin), please, open up, be more liberal, help me to help others and end our suffering,” he said.
Despite early talks in this direction, CBD remains illegal in Malaysia and is not distinguished legally from marijuana.
Last November, Khairy told Parliament that medical marijuana products could be registered in Malaysia so long as these could secure local regulatory approval.
In May this year, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali said Malaysia was open to conducting trials for the medical use of marijuana, but only after the necessary legal amendments were made.
In 2018, a local medical marijuana advocate was sentenced to death for possessing, processing and distributing medical marijuana (CBD oil) before the government at the time intervened and placed a moratorium on his execution.