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          © 2021 VICE MEDIA GROUPDr GanjaDR GANJA. Illustration: Fahmi Reza [8][IMAGE]
       
          This Malaysian Grandfather Is Facing Death for Weed
          ===================================================
       
          ‘Dr Ganja’ has emerged as an unlikely cause celebre for medical
          marijuana use in the Southeast Asian country.[43]HCby [43]Heather Chen[44]FRillustrated
          by [44]Fahmi RezaFebruary 26, 2021, 1:44am
       
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          After selling chocolate bars and brownie edibles made with hemp seed
          oil, a 62-year-old Malaysian grandfather, known affectionately as Dr
          Ganja, faces the death sentence in a country where marijuana—even for
          [45]medicinal purposes—remains illegal and highly taboo.
       
          [12]Health
       
          [46]The Battle for Legal Medical Marijuana Hits Malaysia
       
          VICE Staff02.15.19[46]
       
          Amiruddin Nadarajan Abdullah, a grandfather of five who served in the
          Malaysian army for 22 years, is at the center of a case that
          catapulted him to national prominence as one of Malaysia’s most famous
          proponents of medical marijuana legalization.
       
          “He isn’t a drug dealer or some drug lord,” his daughter Siti, who
          works as a local banking officer, told VICE World News.
       
          Advertisement
       
          “He’s a creative man who loves poetry and reading, but he’s also
          driven by science and is very modern in his thinking and approach to
          things.”
       
          DR GANJA (PICTURED CENTER) WITH FAMILY. PHOTO SUPPLIED
       
          DR GANJA (PICTURED CENTER) WITH FAMILY. PHOTO SUPPLIED
       
          Following a United Nations decision last year to [47]recognize the
          medicinal properties of cannabis, progressive drug policy advocates
          hoped countries around the world would catch up with evolving
          attitudes towards the substance, as a multi-billion dollar global
          medical marijuana industry continues to expand.
       
          Malaysia, however, has some of the strictest drug laws in the world
          and stands in stark contrast to eased restrictions around the region
          and even closer to home in neighboring [48]Thailand. Open discussions
          about marijuana, medical or recreational, remain taboo in Malaysia and
          the trafficking of it, punishable by death.
       
          [8]World News
       
          [49]Singapore Won’t Ever Legalize Cannabis. Its Last Weed Activist
          Tells Us Why.
       
          Heather Chen12.09.20[49]
       
          But activists and local advocacy groups remain hopeful, and say that
          public attitudes in the conservative and predominantly Muslim country
          are changing, with politicians from the previous reformist government
          even [50]proposing legislation to decriminalize medical marijuana.
       
          One of them was [51]Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s former youth minister, who
          sought the opportunity upon his appointment in 2018 to try and push
          the issue forward.
       
          Advertisement
       
          “There are plenty of pros for the decriminalization of medical
          marijuana and the idea was not new, even in Malaysia—and we would
          definitely have taken the steps needed if we were given more time,” he
          told VICE World News in an emailed statement.
       
          “Decriminalizing marijuana offenders for the purpose of medical
          consumption still needs to be done. The current government should
          accord access to medical marijuana to those who need it, not prosecute
          them and punish them for it.”
       
            “Decriminalizing marijuana offenders for the purpose of medical
            consumption still needs to be done. We would have taken the steps
            needed if we were given more time.”
            — Syed Saddiq, former Malaysian youth minister in the Pakatan
            Harapan administration.
       
          Dr Ganja (second from right) as seen during his days in the Malaysian army. PHOTO SUPPLIED 
       
          Dr Ganja (second from right) as seen during his days in the Malaysian
          army. PHOTO SUPPLIED
       
          But Dr Ganja’s involvement in this debate came about by chance.
          Plagued by a series of health issues like kidney problems, diabetes
          and heart disease in the late 1990s, he went from being a hale army
          man to “a living corpse” in a span of mere months, according to Siti.
       
          He was eventually diagnosed with a painful spinal cord tumor that
          caused him to lose a kidney.
       
          Like others who struggle with chronic pain and cancer-related fatigue,
          Dr Ganja went in search of alternative treatments and was soon led
          down the rabbit hole of [52]medical cannabis, surfing online forums
          for hours when he came across hemp seed oil and decided to try it.
       
          Advertisement
       
          “We saw the benefits and relief that the products brought him,” Siti
          said, referring to the oil from different parts of the cannabis plant,
          which some studies have shown to offer [53]relief from the side
          effects of chemotherapy.
       
          Doctors began seeing remarkable improvements, according to Siti, who
          said X-rays showed that his tumours shrank and he was experiencing
          much less pain.
       
          “The discovery gave him a new lease of life. It was inspiring,” she
          said.
       
          DR GANJA DURING HIS TIME IN HOSPITAL. PHOTO SUPPLIED
       
          A convert to the medical benefits of marijuana, Dr Ganja started
          welcoming cancer patients as well as those suffering from other
          physical and mental health conditions to his village home in the
          district of Klang.
       
          [12]Health
       
          [54]A Quarter of Cancer Patients Have Used Medical Marijuana
       
          Knvul Sheikh09.25.17[54]
       
          He believed in the healing properties of cannabis and often used it in
          edibles like brownies, chocolates and medicinal honey. In addition to
          his home bakery, he also ran a Facebook page where he shared “success
          stories” and advocated for the legalization and decriminalization of
          medical marijuana.
       
          Both the page and his personal account have since been deactivated and
          deleted.
       
          PHOTO SUPPLIED
       
          PHOTO SUPPLIED
       
          In 2017, Dr Ganja was arrested and charged with 36 offences under
          Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act.
       
          “The man garnered a large public following on social media by
          promoting the benefits of ganja and hemp seeds,” directors from the
          Federal Narcotics and Criminal Investigation Department told a [55]pretrial
          conference held in the capital Kuala Lumpur.
       
          Advertisement
       
          “He claims that his products can cure illness and his intention was to
          help people.”
       
          He is now awaiting sentencing in Sungai Buloh prison complex, one of
          Malaysia’s largest prison facilities where groups of inmates have [56]tested
          positive for COVID-19.
       
          Dr GANJA AT A COURT APPEARANCE IN 2020. PHOTO SUPPLIED 
       
          Dr GANJA AT A COURT APPEARANCE IN 2020. PHOTO SUPPLIED
       
          Latest photos showed a frail and elderly man, handcuffed to a
          wheelchair and accompanied by police officers to a court hearing in
          December, which would turn out to be his last court date for months as
          the pandemic slowed down the judicial system.
       
          He is expected back in court on Feb. 26.
       
          In an interview with VICE World News, his lawyer Ramkarpal Singh, also
          an opposition politician, said that the case was still ongoing due to
          the lengthy charges he was facing, but that he had not been convicted
          yet.
       
          “The uniqueness of the case lies in his pre-existing medical
          conditions, but from his knowledge, he didn’t think he was doing
          anything illegal,” Singh said.
       
          “He is facing the death penalty but we hope to get him acquitted and
          his charges reduced but that is expected to take quite some time
          because of the amount of exhibits and witnesses to examine.”
       
          DR GANJA. PHOTO SUPPLIED 
       
          DR GANJA. PHOTO SUPPLIED
       
          Rights groups estimate that [57]more than 1,000 people remain on death
          row in Malaysia over drug offences. A moratorium on executions is
          currently in place, with the fate of many convicted on similar
          offences as Dr Ganja, still hanging in the balance.
       
          Among those is Mohammed Zaireen bin Zainal, founder of the Malaysian
          Marijuana Education Movement, who is awaiting a final appeal. A
          coconut milk seller from the island of Penang was also recently
          sentenced to death in September for [58]selling cannabis at a local
          food court.
       
          [59]The VICE Guide to Right Now
       
          [60]Indonesia’s Most Conservative Province Wants to Capitalise On Its
          Decades-Old Underground Weed Industry
       
          Ikhwan Hastanto02.04.20[60]
       
          But the issue has also seen recent positive developments, like the
          case of a 30-year-old man who managed to [61]escape the gallows after
          successfully appealing his death sentence in 2015, reigniting hope
          among Malaysian advocacy groups as well as international observers.
       
          “The Malaysian government must continue efforts to repeal the
          mandatory death penalty for all crimes including drug trafficking, and
          review the policies and laws that have led to the overcrowding of
          prisons across the country,” said Katrina Maliamauv, executive
          director for Amnesty Malaysia.
       
          Advertisement
       
          Harish Kumar, from the [62]Malaysia Society of Awareness which
          campaigns for the legalization of medical marijuana in the country,
          stressed that more change was needed.
       
          “Cannabis is a medicinal plant, it’s as simple as that. We need to get
          rid of the public stigma around drugs, which is still prevalent among
          many Malaysians,” Kumar said.
       
            “Cannabis is a medicinal plant, it’s as simple as that.”
       
          There had been previous talk of fully legalizing cannabis for
          medicinal purposes in Malaysia after Thailand became the first
          Southeast Asian country in 2018 to do so — but Kumar said that
          movements stalled after [63]political upheaval and highlighted crucial
          support that was still needed from the government to enact “meaningful
          change” in parliament.
       
          The trailer for the documentary film titled, ‘My Father, Dr G’.
       
          Campaigning for Dr Ganja’s freedom are three young local filmmakers,
          Jo Yee Loh, Hidayah Hisham and Dominique Teoh, who recently released a
          [64]full-length documentary about his family’s plight.
       
          “His story isn’t just a medical debate, it’s one that affects the
          discussion and debate about human rights in Malaysia too,” the group
          told VICE World News.
       
          Advertisement
       
          “Thousands of families across Malaysia, like his, have been affected
          by the drug laws. More Malaysians need to be convinced that marijuana
          isn’t a dangerous drug and people who need it should be allowed
          legitimate access, not be persecuted and punished.”
       
            “Thousands of families across Malaysia have been affected by the
            drug laws. More Malaysians need to be convinced that marijuana
            isn’t a dangerous drug.”
       
          The young filmmakers at court. PHOTO SUPPLIED
       
          The young filmmakers at court. PHOTO SUPPLIED
       
          With heavy restrictions around prison visits still in place, Siti
          hasn’t heard from her father in months.
       
          She said that weekly phone calls from him had stopped, and she
          remained worried about his health in prison. Urinary tract infections,
          frequent abdominal pains and a flu scare in December left the family
          fearing for his health and safety as coronavirus outbreaks were
          reported across multiple prisons.
       
          “I’m fighting for my father and mourn every day that he’s away,” Siti
          said.
       
          “But nothing will change unless our laws change and I can’t shake the
          feeling that he’s already beyond our reach.”
       
          Follow Heather Chen on [65]Twitter.
       
          Tagged:[52]Cannabis[45]MEDICAL MARIJUANA[66]malaysia[67]worldnews[68]worldnews-drugs
       
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