Malaysia intends to emulate neighboring Thailand's cannabis policy to legalize the use of the drug for medical purposes, a health ministry official said on Wednesday, in a country where possession of the substance is liable to the death penalty.
The comments came after Thailand's health minister said he would meet his Malaysian counterpart at an APEC health ministers' meeting next week, where Thailand will present its work of legalization marijuana for medical purposes.
With a tradition of using cannabis to ease pain and fatigue, Thailand legalized medicinal marijuana in 2018, becoming the first Asian nation in June to decriminalize the cultivation of marijuana and its use in food and drink.
“We are developing our own framework for the use of cannabis for medical purposes, and we want to learn from Thailand,” the Malaysian official told to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The Malaysian government is interested in Thailand's legal framework for medical use, he added.
The cultivation and recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in Malaysia, and possession of more than 200 grams (7 oz) of the plant carries the death penalty.
However, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said importation and use of marijuana for medical purposes, on medical prescription, is permitted provided it is registered with the drug control authority. .
In April, Khairy said the government welcomed clinical studies into the medical use of cannabidiol, a chemical in cannabis that doesn't get users high.
Last month, the national Bernama news agency said the health ministry intended to start registering some cannabidiol products next year after studying their safety, although the approval of the culture is still far away.
So far, the Malaysian justice minister has not commented on this.
Thailand's Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, the main architect of the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes in his country, estimates that the sector could represent more than 3 billion dollars within five years.
"The topics of discussion will be how to jointly advance this type of policy to create benefits, both economically and medically," he told a news conference in Bangkok.
"We want everyone to acknowledge the ownership of this cannabis plant," he said Wednesday. "The more people are interested in this field, the more development and research (it) will create."
Thailand has said its cannabis policy covers medical and health purposes but not recreational use, although hastily published laws have created space for such uses.