Government reviews Dangerous Drugs Act for medicinal cannabis

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 – The government will review the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and the Poisons Act 1952 to regulate cannabis and ketum for medicinal purposes, Health Minister Khayry Jamaluddin said.

Cannabis, or marijuana, is currently prohibited under the Dangerous Drugs Act, which provides extremely harsh penalties for the use of illegal narcotics.

Possession of 20g to less than 50g of cannabis is punishable by imprisonment for two to five years and flogging. Possession of 200g or more of cannabis is considered human trafficking, punishable by the mandatory death penalty.

“We will review the Dangerous Drugs Act and the Poisons Act so that regulation of the use of substances such as cannabis and ketum for medical purposes can be aligned with scientific knowledge and data and the latest research on their use,” Khary said in his New Year’s message to Ministry of Health (MOH) officials last Thursday, according to a transcript of his speech made available to the press.

Ketum is regulated under the Third Schedule of the Poisons Act, which regulates drugs and medicines. Technically, it’s not illegal to grow ketum in your own yard, but Section 30 of the Poisons Act prohibits commercial harvesting and sale of the psychoactive plant.

It may be relatively difficult to get changes to the Poisons Act through Parliament, but the revision of the Dangerous Drugs Act is likely to face even more opposition after decades of Malaysia’s drug war.

Khayry has not specified exactly how the government plans to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act, such as whether cannabis will be removed entirely from the Dangerous Drugs Act to instead be regulated under the Poisons Act.

Malaysia’s National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) approved a cannabis-derived prescription drug in 2014 to treat muscle spasms and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.

But Sativex — an oromucosal spray of a formulated cannabis extract containing cannabidiol (CBD) as well as THC, the psychoactive chemical component in cannabis — was withdrawn from the Malaysian market three years later as it was not commercially viable. Sativex was developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, a manufacturer of cannabinoid therapeutics based in Ireland.

This means that Malaysia has not registered any marijuana-based treatment at this time. Some conditions for which cannabis-based treatment has been advocated are epilepsy, neuropathic pain and chronic widespread pain, as well as appetite problems, nausea and vomiting, and pain in cancer patients.

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