Indonesia is home to some of the harshest cannabis penalties on earth. In fact, people can still receive the death penalty as a punishment for certain cannabis offenses in Indonesia.
Thailand, which shares a maritime border with Indonesia, recently implemented a new cannabis policy that significantly boosted access to cannabis, and people had to be reminded that if they brought cannabis into Indonesia from Thailand that they could be put to death.
Given that background and context, it was significant earlier this week when officials in Indonesia expressed a willingness to explore medical cannabis reform. Per Bloomberg:
Indonesian lawmakers will discuss a plan to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, after a mother’s plea for the treatment for her child spread widely online.
Legislators will study the plan with the health ministry, parliament’s Deputy Speaker Sufmi Dasco Ahmad said in a statement on Tuesday. Any changes would be done by revising the narcotics law, which bans the use of cannabis except for certain research purposes, he added.
Santi Warastuti went viral for joining Jakarta’s crowded car-free day on Sunday while bringing a placard that said, “Help, my child needs medical marijuana.” Her child has cerebral palsy. Dasco met Warastuti in Jakarta on Tuesday, and vowed to raise the issue with legislators who are deliberating the law.
Medical cannabis reform has swept the globe in recent decades, particularly in the Western Hemisphere and Europe. Asia has been much slower to reform its laws, although that is changing.
It’s likely a safe bet that if Indonesia does legalize cannabis for medical use, which is a huge ‘if’ to be sure, the policy that they implement will be extremely strict.
One thing working in every country’s favor in the region is Thailand’s new cannabis policy, which is demonstrating in real-time that reform is better than prohibition. Hopefully that is a fact that is not lost on lawmakers in Indonesia (and elsewhere).