A Malaysian father is facing the death penalty for distributing cannabis oils and flower, which he claims were purely for medical use.
In December of 2015, Malaysian police busted 30-year-old Muhammad Lukman Mohamad with around 3,000ml of THC oil, 50 ounces of THC extract, and almost 10 ounces of dried flower. Lukman had been distributing these cannabis products for medical use via a Facebook page called HealTHCcare, priced as low as $10 for a bottle of THC oil.
Last August, the Shah Alam High Court found Lukman guilty of three counts of drug trafficking. Malaysia, like many Southeast Asian countries, has some of the most extreme anti-cannabis laws that exist in the world today. Possession of 50 grams of weed or less can land you in jail for as long as ten years, and anyone who is convicted for drug trafficking receives an automatic death penalty.
Lukman's legal team described him as a generous and devoted Muslim who sold cannabis purely for medical purposes, noting that he would give the oil away to anyone who could not afford it. Several of his patients testified that his products helped them treat symptoms of chronic pain and other illnesses.
The court's ruling immediately drew a public outcry, and a petition demanding that the government reverse Lukman's sentence gathered tens of thousands of signatures. The groundswell of support even attracted the interest of Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, who publicly stated that this case should be reviewed. Nurul Izzah Anwar, a Minister of Parliament with the governing coalition, said that the case appeared to be a “miscarriage of justice,” the BBC reports.
This week, the Malaysian Court of Appeal granted Lukman an appeal to his death sentence, which will be held on November 27th. The deputy prosecutor in the case had no objection to the appeal.
There are currently around 900 Malaysians on death row for drug offenses, and Lukman is not the only medical cannabis activist among them. Mohammed Zaireen bin Zainal, founder of the Malaysian Marijuana Education Movement, is also waiting for his final appeal, and an ex-military captain known as “Dr. Ganja” is currently awaiting trial for distributing medical cannabis oils.
There is a glimmer of hope that the public outrage against these cases will convince the government to back down on its archaic, harsh drug policies. Prime Minister Mahathir's administration announced last year that they were looking to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. But even if Lukman manages to avoid the death penalty, he may still go to jail for decades — and potentially life.
Last fall, local news reported that cabinet members were discussing the possibility of legalizing medical marijuana, and that at least one minister was fully on board with the prospect. If the government were to follow through with this plan, it would make Malaysia the second Southeast Asian country — after Thailand — to legalize medical marijuana, and could save the lives of Lukman and other cannabis activists.