Malaysia eyes possibility of legalizing medical marijuana – but doubt abounds

Photo by Azlan Baharudin on Unsplash

Malaysia has opened the door to the possibility that it could one day legalize medical cannabis, but industry sources warn against expecting any immediate legislative breakthrough in the staunchly conservative country.

The Malaysian Cabinet’s discussions on amending relevant laws, which took place last week, are still in an early stage, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar told the news agency he supports regulating medical marijuana.

It’s a big step for a country that only three weeks ago sentenced man to death by hanging for selling MMJ.

However, Vijay Sappani, CEO of Toronto-based Ela Capital, a venture capital firm exploring emerging markets in the cannabis space, said Malaysia’s health ministry has the final say – and the agency remains skeptical of medical marijuana.

“If you’re not hearing it from the people who make the decisions, it’s exciting and a positive development, but it’s not something that’s going to happen tomorrow or the day after,” he said.

“In Malaysia, I think it will be a slower process.”

Sappani and other industry sources said it’s unlikely the nation will leapfrog countries like India, Sri Lanka and even South Korea, which also are in the early stages but closer to viable medical cannabis industries than Malaysia is.

India, he said, could see progress after the 2019 general election.

Meanwhile, neighboring Thailand has struggled to get its medical cannabis industry off the ground. A draft law has been bogged down for months after being approved by the cabinet in May.

The bill is slowly moving through the National Legislative Assembly, and a report from the Office of Narcotics Control Board on medical cannabis will reach policymakers next week, The Nation newspaper reported.

Sophon Mekthon, deputy director general of Thailand’s Department of Health of the Public Health Ministry, said he expects law to come into force in April 2019, according to Khaosod English.

Matt Lamers can be reached at

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