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Malaysia Takes Step Towards Cannabis Legalization

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Apr 17, 2019   
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Malaysia could soon become the second southeast Asian country, after Thailand, to legalize medical cannabis. 

According to Australian pharmaceutical company THC Global Group Ltd., the Malaysian government is in talks with the cannabis giant to develop policy frameworks and a path to legalization. As part of the process, THC Global Group has partnered with the agri-tech company Heleogenics to help produce medical cannabis products in the south Asian country.

If fruitful, this collaboration could be the final factor to prompt the government to overturn its traditionally harsh drug laws. 

Back in August 2018, a Malaysian man was sentenced to death for selling cannabis oil to ill patients who couldn’t afford it. But within days, tens of thousands of Malaysians had signed a petition in his support. The case received so much national attention that prime minister Mahathir Mohamad quickly asked for the sentence to be reviewed. 

The Malaysian government then announced it would abolish the death penalty for 32 offenses, including drug charges, and MPs began drafting legislation to decriminalize medicinal marijuana. Speaking to Bloomberg about the government’s potential policy change, Malaysia's water, land and natural resources minister Xavier Jayakumar said that, “it will take a bit of encouragement and convincing as far as this topic is concerned.”

“My own personal view is that if it’s got medicinal value, then it can be a controlled item that can be used by [the] Ministry of Health for prescription purposes.”

However, since then, the government has made little progress to introduce medical cannabis. As recently as February this year, the country’s deputy health minister stated that no companies had registered with the ministry to use cannabis-based products for medical purposes. 

“Previously there was one foreign company that registered with the ministry to import such products to Malaysia many years ago,” he told press in February. “But I think after that they didn’t renew their license. So at the moment, there is none.” 

That was until THC Global Group Ltd. began working with the south Asian government. Now, with investment from the Australian cannabis business, the country could finally be on its way to producing and providing medical cannabis products to its needy citizens. 

In a press release, the company claim that it has a “pathway to government liaison towards developing legislation for medicinal cannabis within key Asian markets - initially Malaysia.”

Commenting on the company’s partnership with the biotechnology business Heleogenics, THC Global’s CEO, Ken Charteris, stated that, “working with the Heleogenics team, who are leaders in the bio-tech and agri-tech sector, within Asia brings a significant wealth of experience both within government liaison in addition to broadening the company's research and development capabilities.”

Ultimately, the race to become the first southeast Asian country to legalize medical use was won by Thailand last year. But for the thousands of Malaysians in desperate need of medical cannabis, second place is still a worthy goal. And, as the leading cannabis company working with the country’s government, THC Global could be the deciding force that helps win it. 

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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