Indonesia to Become the Second Asian Country to Legalize Medical Marijuana After Thailand

The re-consideration was prompted by the story of a distressed mother whose son is suffering from cerebral palsy and needs medical marijuana.

Indonesia is planning to legalize medical marijuana after Vice-President Ma'ruf Amin convinced the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to re-evaluate their perspective on the matter.

This decision to reconsider was prompted by a tweet of a well-known Indonesian actress and singer Andien Aisyah. The celebrity shared the picture of a mother whose son is suffering with cerebral palsy, holding a sign that read, "help, my child needs medical marijuana," on July 3.

Ever since then, the distressed mother, Santi Warastuti's image had been retweeted more than 40,000 times, Jakarta Post reported.

Indonesia Medical Marijuana
Santi Warastuti holding a sign which reads, "help, my child needs medical marijuana" Twitter

A fatwa was issued two days later by the top Islamic scholar's council as ordered by the former MUI chief Ma'ruf, to permit the usage of Cannabis for medical purposes.

MUI's head of fatwa, Asrorun Niam Sholeh, later stated that the council is open to discussion on legalizing the drug, which it had earlier declared to be haram or forbidden as per Islamic principles.

In an official statement Asrorun mentioned that the members will reassess the issue taking into account the health, social, economic and regulatory impacts.

"Whether will come in the form of promoting an existing fatwa, strengthening regulations or recommending new rules or fatwa, we'll see," he added.

Indonesia Medical Marijuana
Vice President Ma'ruf Amin Twitter

The Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin also stated that new regulations which allow for a research on the medical benefits of the drug will be released soon, as it would provide ample data to 'argue scientifically.'

As Indonesia is amongst those Southeast Asian countries that have a track record of awarding the harshest punishments to drug offenders, the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) is not very sure of this new initiative. Categorized as a Class-1 drug under the 2009 Narcotics Law of Indonesia, Marijuana is prohibited from being consumed in the country.

General Sulistyo Pudjo Hartono, the agency's head of public relations, is of the opinion that if the government legalizes Cannabis it would result in an 'extraordinary' rise in crime rates, as per Jakarta Post.

Indonesia Medical Marijuana

Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sufmi Dasco Ahmad met with Santi on 27 June. Three days later on a separate visit to the House Commission III, a discussion happened which revealed that the 2009 Narcotics Law will be revised as part of the national legislation program.

According to Desmond Mahesa, the deputy chief of Commission III, a joint task force of the Health Ministry, the National Police and the BNN is going to be established which would conduct surveillance on the medical use of Cannabis.

All of this will be part of a new provision which will be included in the revised 2009 Narcotics Law.

Last month, Thailand became the first Asian country to decriminalize marijuana for medical as well as industrial use. However, there is still strict punishment for a recreational use of the drug.