Could Asia be the next hotspot for medical cannabis patients and businesses?

9th November 2021

Following the announcement by the Nepalese government that it was considering legalising medical cannabis in the former “hippie haven” country, another Asian country has also acknowledged the medicinal potential of the plant.

According to Code Blue, Malaysia could be the next country in Asia to legalise medical cannabis. The question of medical cannabis legalisation has been an ongoing debate in the country, but the story is still far from over.

Malaysia currently has some of the strictest cannabis laws in the world – those caught with up to 50 grams of cannabis can be sentenced to two to five years in prison, as well as whipping.

Drug traffickers, or those found in possession of more than 200 grams, can still be sentenced to death.

Current Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) “acknowledges the use of cannabis for medical purposes.”

According to the MOH, cannabis products should be registered with the Drug Control Authority (DCA). Importing can only be done by licenced importers who have all the necessary permits.

Patients with special needs could be prescribed medical cannabis products by registered medical practitioners.

In a written response to an MP, Mr Jamaluddin said: “Therefore, if there are parties who have sufficient scientific evidence to use cannabis (hemp) for any medicinal purpose by taking into account the aspects of quality, safety and effectiveness, then the application to register cannabis products for medicinal purposes can be submitted to DCA to be evaluated and registered under the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulation 1984 in order to be marketed in Malaysia.”

This news comes only weeks after a report from Nepal in which it was revealed that campaigners and advocates have introduced a bill in parliament to legalise medical cannabis for patients who suffer from severe illnesses and life-changing pain.

Nepal has a long history with cannabis. Almost two years ago, a total of 46 MPs of the ruling Nepal Communist Party submitted a motion to parliament advocating for the legalisation of cannabis.

In a country where cannabis use has a long and deep history, prohibition hasn’t been very effective at curbing use.

The same goes with Thailand, where after years of consideration, the government last year introduced new legislation to allow the use of most parts of cannabis and hemp in cosmetics and food.

Thailand became the first country in Asia to legalise medical cannabis back in 2018 and since then, introduced rules that would allow families to form community groups to grow cannabis and supply the crop to public hospitals and state facilities, as a way of supplementing their income.

If more countries in Asia chose to embrace the medicinal potential of cannabis, the region could become one of the largest hotspots in the world for patients.

While it may seem like wishful thinking, a country like China, which has one of the largest hemp industries in the world, could translate these skills into creating a huge medical cannabis industry in Asia.

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