History of CBD and Cannabis: Malaysia
As a Southeast Asian country, Malaysian officials pride themselves on instituting some of the harshest drug policies in the world. In response to pressure from neighboring countries and culturally negative attitudes towards drug use, the country has enacted a full ban on cannabis.
Malaysia’s complex relationship to cannabis has arisen due to a nexus of historical forces, including international pressures, cultural attitudes, and colonization.
Cannabis, CBD, and Malaysia
Cannabis is illegal for recreational, medical, and industrial use in Malaysia. In fact, the country has historically had some of the most punitive policies towards cannabis use – even in comparison with it’s strict East Asian neighbors.
Individuals found in possession of more than seven ounces of marijuana are presumed to be trafficking, which can lead to a death penalty sentencing. Moreover, those caught with mere trace amounts of marijuana can be imprisoned for up to ten years.
Of course, many of these policies has created decades of pain, anger, and public outrage. In 2018, one twenty-nine year old man received the death penalty for possessing marijuana that he used to treat a medical condition.
In fact, this case led the government to openly discuss legalizing cannabis, which made it one of the very first Asian countries to do so. Unlike other nations, Malaysian officials have finally started to question the potential benefits of cannabis policy reform.
In the eighteenth century, cannabis used to be completely legal and easy to procure in Malaysia. It wasn’t until British acquisition of the formerly Dutch territory that taxes on bhang, a traditional drink crafted with cannabis, were raised since it was considered a source of “social harm”.
Over a hundred years later, this sentiment transformed into extremely restrictive opinions on cannabis use. By 1952, the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance was passed in response to British pressure, which outlawed cannabis use throughout Malaysia.
Drug law only grew more punitive in response to international pressure. In the seventies and eighties, the United States implemented the notorious War on Drugs program under Ronald Reagan.
Ultimately, this policy caused many nations around the world to adhere to the American standard of complete substance bans. Malaysia was no exception.
Though the government’s formation of a cannabis task force is promising, the country still has leagues to go before ever decriminalizing or reforming cannabis law. It will be interesting to see how Southeast nations like Malaysia will modulate their cannabis policy in response to Western nations’ trend of decriminalization.