KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that for the time being, the government is prohibiting the planting of ketum for commercial purposes or to be exported overseas.
However, Zahid said Putrajaya will not stop research work, especially by the Institute of Medical Research (IMR), on the plant for its possible use for medicinal purposes.
“This will take some time, so for now, ketum trees cannot be commercially planted or distributed.
“If there are those who are stubborn (and continue planting ketum trees), we will take action in accordance with the Poisons Act,” he told reporters at a Media Prima Hari Raya open house here, today.
Zahid’s stance was in line with Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who earlier today rejected Rubber Industries Smallholders Development Authority’s (Risda) proposal to commercialise ketum cultivation in the country.
Risda Chairman Zahidi Zainul Abidin had last month proposed to plant ketum on a commercial scale, pointing out it could rake in billions for the country due to the demand for the plant from pharmaceutical companies in Europe and the United States, as these companies viewed it as an alternative to modern medicine.
The Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar had previously said while there is no law against planting ketum, the owning, distribution and processing of the plant is a crime.
Zahid also revealed that he has instructed Risda to put an end to the ketum polemic immediately.
The Home Ministry, he added, has held discussions with experts from the Health Ministry and the police’s narcotics department on the matter.
“We received some scientific input, where it was found that although ketum has its benefits, there are more negative aspects that come from its consumption, including addiction and certain illnesses.”
Ketum or “Mitragyna speciosa” is a tree native to Southeast Asia.
Its leaves can be used either as a stimulant, or as a sedative, besides being able to treat opiate addiction. Many also claim ketum is effective in treating arthritis.