Lawyer: AG can reduce charge against man with medicinal cannabis oil

PETALING JAYA: The attorney-general (AG) has the power to reduce the charge against a man sentenced to death for having medicinal cannabis oil when the case comes up for appeal, a lawyer says.

N Sivananthan said the AG, who is also public prosecutor, could offer an alternative charge of possession under Section 6 of the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) which carries a maximum five-year jail term.

“If the Court of Appeal bench agrees, the death penalty could be substituted with a jail term,” he told FMT.

Sivananthan, who represents accused in drug trafficking cases, said the court would usually go along with the prosecution’s offer to reduce a charge.

He was responding to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had indicated that the government should review the case of Muhammad Lukman, who was given the capital punishment by the Shah Alam High Court on Aug 30 for having medicinal cannabis oil.

Lukman was arrested in 2015 for the possession of 3.1 litres of cannabis oil, 279g of compressed cannabis and 1.4kg of substance containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Sivananthan said there was basis for a reduction in charge against the 29-year-old as he was not using the oil for illegal purposes but for medical reasons.

“The AG has the option to concede to the appeal – this is within the law. The accused is not a trafficker and he could be spared the death sentence due to the unique facts of the case,” he said.

Lukman’s plight was also raised by Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar who earlier this week said she would write to the AG.

Nurul said the use of cannabis oil for medical reasons must eventually be decriminalised.

Lawyer Farhan Maaruf said Lukman only wanted to assist patients who were suffering from ailments that could be treated by THC, an active ingredient in cannabis.

Meanwhile, lawyer Salim Bashir said the use of cannabis oil to treat patients suffering from afflictions such as cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure was a recent trend in Malaysia.

He said under Section 16 of the DDA, the health minister need not delist the oil but instead regulate its use, manufacturing and sale.

Salim said the minister could, on the other hand, delist certain drugs, including the oil for medicinal and research purposes.

He said certain provisions in the DDA needed to be amended to ensure the use of cannabis oil was not abused.

Those caught possessing 200g or more of cannabis can be charged with trafficking.

Possession of between 50g and 200g carries a minimum five-year jail term and 10 strokes of the rotan while the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

Lukman’s case is not the only one of its kind as Amiruddin @ Nadarajan Abdullah, who is known as Dr Ganja, is facing 36 charges and the death sentence for similar offences.

Malaysia Awareness Society secretary Harish Kumar claimed that Amiruddin, a former armed forces captain, had cured over 800 people using marijuana for different sicknesses.

In many developed countries, the trend is to decriminalise and even legalise marijuana, particularly for medical purposes.