MALAYSIA could finally be stepping away from harsh and archaic drug laws which have done little to curb the problem of drug abuse, more so drug trafficking.
While globally a better understanding of the value of marijuana in treatment of various ailments could result in doors opened to a booming CBD industry, the fact that the greenery never caused much harm to begin with, could see laws including the death penalty for large quantities of that plant produce be abolished first.
But from the Rethinking Malaysia’s Drug Policy seminar at Universiti Malaya last Thursday, one would have concluded that marijuana wasn’t even on the list. It was the problem drugs that caused addiction. Heroin, amphetamines and such.
Professor Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman. UM’s dean of the Medical Faculty, has long rallied the troops, led by academics armed with evidence based studies on clearly what really need to be done to tackle drug addiction.
“It is clear, simply incarcerating them (addicts) does not solve the problem. Drug addiction alters the way their brain functions. There is evidence based treatment to repair that, but incarceration often times deprives them of that,” said Adeeba.
In her talk, Adeeba projected figures of more than 150,000 drug related incarcerations in Malaysia in 2018 alone, of which a mere 6,000 were for serious drug trafficking charges.
Most of the rest were addicts sent to prison instead of the treatment room, escalating the problem and imposing life-long stigmas of drug related crimes upon them, depriving them of opportunities. Some, she said, were even casual users, robbed of their futures through a mistake in their youth.
Persatuan Pengasih Malaysia, a care-provider set up by former addicts, have had on their plate the burden of stigmatisation in their handling of addicts in the past 30 years.
It’s president Ramli Abdul Samad said:”We believe in this second chance. All these addicts have done is a mistake. They never did drugs with an intention of harming anybody.
“But they are left with this stigma that deprives them of their future. They can’t even find jobs because of their criminal records. We have some who lost even odd jobs such as security guards after it was found they had drug related criminal records.
“Just yesterday, there was this 16-year old who came to me. He has a criminal record and his whole future is destroyed. He will not get the scholarships, even a job.”
Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad described the reforms that the government is embarking on as a “game changer policy”.
Dzulkefly stressed for the matter not to be misunderstood as the legalisation of drugs, but decriminalisation, stressing that the decision was the most sensible path forward.
“Decriminalisation is the removal of criminal penalties for possessing and using a small quantity of drugs for personal use, as opposed to those who are involved in trafficking drugs,” said Dzulkefly. “Trafficking of drugs will undoubtedly remain a crime.”
“Decriminalisation will be a critical step towards achieving a national drug policy that puts science and public health before punishment and incarceration,” said Dzulkefly.
Current legislation sees people found using drugs fined and jailed. Those caught with 200 grams or more of cannabis or 15 grams or more of heroin or morphine are presumed to be trafficking, an offence that carries a mandatory death sentence.
Watch our video on the seminar for a clearer picture.