The Malaysian government has been reviewing its drug laws in response to calls for medical cannabis to be legalized.
People had expressed outrage over a death penalty sentence handed to Muhammad Lukman Mohamad, a 29-year-old man who was arrested and convicted for possessing, distributing, and processing cannabis for sick people. As a result, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called on his cabinet to conduct a review of the verdict and of the country’s cannabis law.
Dr. Xavier Jayakumar, Malaysia’s Minister of Water, Land, and Natural Resources, stated that the Cabinet has met and discussed the therapeutic value of cannabis, as well as started talks on amending relevant laws.
Update: Malaysia is moving to scrap death penalty for cannabis-related cases
After a few weeks since news of the legislative review came out, Malaysia has a surprise announcement: It is moving to abolish death penalty for cannabis-related crimes.
More specifically, the government announced a reprieve in Lukman Mohamad’s case.
A small victory for the Southeast Asian nation
While this is far from cannabis legalization, many international human rights and cannabis advocates see this as a small victory considering that drug trafficking in the Southeast Asian region is often punishable by death and that there is very little distinction, if any, between hard drugs and cannabis.
In fact, Southeast Asia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. In countries such as Indonesia and Singapore, even minor drug offenses can get one a death sentence.
What’s more, many Southeast Asian nations are also heading towards the opposite direction and are even being more intolerant in their cannabis policies. In countries like the Philippines, the government is more aggressive in their drug war and relentless in their implementation of the “death penalty.”
The government’s announcement was likewise applauded by Amnesty International. Its secretary general, Kumi Naidoo, said that it is a major step forward for everyone who has campaigned for an end to the death penalty in the country. Malaysia, Kumi said, must now join the 106 other countries who have put an end to the ultimate inhumane, cruel, and degrading punishment.
The death penalty may no longer apply to Lukman Mohamad’s case, but it does not mean that the penal code has already been amended. It is still unclear whether this official amendment will come in time to save Lukman Muhamad’s life.
The people can only hope that Lukman’s execution is placed on hold while the change in legislation is still pending.
According to parliamentarian Nurul Izzah Anwar, she would write to the attorney general’s office to ask for Lukman’s sentence to be put aside.