At conference on cannabis, ex-CJ Zaki Azmi makes case for medical use in Malaysia

Cannabis oil products made in Thailand will be on display during the opening of the first official medical cannabis clinic in Bangkok on January 6, 2020. — Reuters pic

By R Loheswar

Friday, June 24, 2022 3:58 PM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 (Reuters) – The government could already provide exemptions for medical marijuana in the country without going through the tedious task of making new laws or regulations to that end, former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi said.

Zaki today asked the government to quickly legalize medical marijuana in Malaysia, or at least grant an immediate exemption for cannabidiol imports, and said the same dangerous drugs law that bans narcotics like marijuana also empowers the minister to grant exemptions for to grant restricted use.

He said it means the government can respond quickly to developments in the area where countries like Thailand and China are already building an advantage in the marijuana (cannabis) industry.

Speaking at a forum titled “Medical Cannabis: Facts and Benefits,” Zaki said it’s unfortunate that government, particularly health officials, continue to hold conservative and biased views on marijuana.

“If one, two or three percent of the population benefits from it, I think the government needs to allow it, especially when stronger drugs like morphine and codeine can be prescribed by ordinary doctors.

“We are not here to politicize things. but why talk about going to Parliament to change laws when it’s already there, provisions to use it for specific purposes,” he lamented, arguing that the government should at least stop importing cannabidiol (CBD) should allow immediately.

CBD is the extract of the marijuana plant used for medicinal purposes, which is distinct from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or the compound responsible for the plant’s psychoactive properties.

Earlier this month, Thailand decriminalized marijuana in the country, and the industry has attracted interest from companies large and small, attracting more than 1.2 billion baht (RM154.2 million) in investment as they benefit from the legalized cultivation and use of the marijuana want plants.

Marijuana and hemp have been removed from the Category 5 narcotics list, according to the Food and Drug Administration of Thailand. To run a legal marijuana-related business in the country, growers can easily register through the Pluk Kan mobile app.

The global trend towards the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana has opened it up to more medical research into CBD as a treatment for pain and inflammation, as an appetite stimulant for chemotherapy patients, and for muscle spasms and seizures.

During today’s forum, proponents of CBD oils shared anecdotes about its benefits as a medical treatment.

One of them, Razak Kamil, shared a short video of his epileptic son taking CBD oil nasally to avoid the onset of a seizure.

In the video, the 13-year-old appeared to be in the early labor stages of a seizure that was interrupted within 20 seconds of Razak administering the CBD spray.

Despite its proven effectiveness in controlling his son’s epilepsy, Razak said he cannot legally source CBD in Malaysia due to the ongoing ban on marijuana and all of its related compounds.

“This is just one case, there are many more who have benefited, but we deny them the right to good health,” Zaki said in comment.

“I would like to try CBD as I suffer from peripheral neuropathy in my nerves and my legs are always numb.”

The former chief justice said it would be preferable to be able to use CBD as a substitute for the medication he was prescribed, as the latter was associated with side effects such as constipation that impacted quality of life.

“Apart from my arthritis, I’m 77 years old, I’m not young anymore and as you get older all the joints start to hurt. So when I take morphine it gets me very, very high, so why can’t I take CDB?

“So please (Director General of Health) Tan Sri Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, Minister of Health (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 legally distinguished from marijuana.

Last November, Khairy told parliament that medical marijuana products could be registered in Malaysia as long as they could receive local regulatory approval.

In May this year, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr. Noor Azmi Ghazali said Malaysia is ready to conduct studies on the medical use of marijuana, but only after making the necessary legislative changes.

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.