A man has been sentenced to death in Malaysia for processing cannabis oil and distributing it to patients in need.
On 30 August, the Shah Alam High Court sentenced Muhammad Lukman to death by hanging, after he was convicted of possessing, processing, and distributing cannabis oil.
Cannabis trafficking in Malaysia, and some of its neighbors, is notoriously prohibited. The country has a zero-tolerance policy regarding cannabis, classifying it alongside cocaine and heroin as a “dangerous drug.” Anyone caught possessing, distributing, or using cannabis in Malaysia can be sentenced to death. People arrested for seven ounces or more are presumed to be drug trafficking.
In addition to the three liters of oil, Lukman was caught with 279 grams of compressed cannabis. Lukman’s lawyer Farhan Maaruf stated in court that Lukman’s intentions were merely to help people who could benefit from the medical potential of cannabis oil, which is growing in popularity around the globe as a treatment for conditions like arthritis, epilepsy, and the symptoms of chemotherapy.
Lukman, a 29-year-old father of one, provided cannabis oil to patients who were suffering from ailments that were difficult to treat with legal medicines. Lukman did not profit from this, and would provide cannabis oil for free to patients who could not afford it. Despite the lack of financial gain from his endeavour, his offences fall under section 39B of Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. This stipulates that “Any person who [traffics an illegal drug] shall be guilty of an offence against this Act and shall be punished on conviction with death”.
Lukman’s defence team called upon patients who had successfully used his cannabis oil to treat their illnesses, and emphasised that he produced and provided the medicine on a non-profit basis for their wellbeing. The prosecution argued that, regardless of intent or revenue, Lukman produced and distributed an illegal drug that is not recognised for its medical uses by the Ministry of Health or any accredited Malaysian physician. This lack of recognition, the judge concluded, invalidated Lukman’s defence.
Although it has not been approved in Malaysia, cannabis oil is used to medically treat a range of ailments among adults and children in Canada, many US states, and several European countries.
Despite Lukman’s lawyers’ plea for a reduced sentence, his mitigation was rejected and he was sentenced to death by hanging. Lukman will appeal his sentence at the Court of Appeal.
“This is not the fault of the judge, he only performed his task in accordance with the written law,” Lukman said. “It’s clear that he was unaware about the truth [of medical cannabis]. I believe this is not the final verdict. If it is, Malaysia laws are cruel.”
Lukman’s case is not unique in Malaysia. A former military captain, Amiruddin Nadarajan Abdullah, is currently on trial for providing medical cannabis products to as many as 800 patients, Free Malaysia Today reports. Former patients, including young children and grandparents, are among those who have come to court to show their support for Abdullah – known among his patients at Dr. Ganja. If convicted, Abdullah also faces the death sentence.
Malaysia has long had some of the world’s most heavy handed anti-cannabis laws. Most obviously, this reputation comes from the fact that a person can still be sentenced to death for breaking certain drug laws. Malaysia is one of at least 33 countries that retains the death penalty for drug offences.
But Malaysia isn’t the only country where a person can be sentenced to death for possessing, distributing, or consuming cannabis. In fact, there are still a surprisingly large number of countries throughout the world with these types of laws in the books.
Along with Malaysia, this list includes countries like China, Egypt, Singapore, Myanmar, Philippines, Nigeria, and several others.