Following the death penalty handed to Muhammad Lukman, a 29-year old man who was convicted of possessing, processing and distributing medicinal cannabis oil, public outcry has caused Malaysian officials to reconsider the punishment.
Muhammad Lukman was arrested in 2015 for possessing 3.1 litres of cannabis oil, 279 g of compressed cannabis and 1.4 kg of a substance containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). He was handed the death sentence on 30th of August this year, which sparked debate over the use of cannabis for medical reasons. The case ignited a change.org petition that collected over 60,000 public signatures.
Lukman has filed an appeal, testifying in court that he was only selling the cannabis oil to help patients suffering from devastating diseases such as cancer – where cannabis has been proven to relieve certain symptoms.
In Malaysia, cannabis is classified as a dangerous substance. The country’s Dangerous Drug Act (DDA) carries the death penalty and anyone caught with over 200g of cannabis will be charged with drug trafficking.
The public outcry has caused Malaysia’s cabinet to “very briefly” discuss the medicinal value of cannabis in a meeting last week, according to Bloomberg.
The country’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, 93 has expressed the need for the law that imposes capital punishment to be reviewed. For now, the cabinet has reached the decision to remove the death sentence in Lukman’s case.
As for legalising medical cannabis, Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Xavier Jayakumar told Bloomberg that, “It will take a bit of encouragement and convincing as far as this topic is concerned. My own personal view is that if it’s got medicinal value, then it can be a controlled item that can be used by the Ministry of Health for prescription purposes.”
Malaysia’s informal talks to legalise cannabis for medicinal use follow changes in countries such as Canada, UK and the USA, which have recognised the medical value of cannabis.