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Indonesian Constitutional Court Rejects Medical Marijuana

Three mothers of children with cerebral palsy, backed by civil groups, had in 2020 filed the case


Indonesia’s Constitutional Court’s panel of nine judges on Wednesday, July 20, rejected a judicial review of the nation’s narcotics law that would have paved the way for legalizing Cannabis for medicinal use.

Three mothers of children with cerebral palsy backed by civil organizations had in 2020 filed a judicial review of Indonesia’s harsh narcotics law, reports CNA. The review argued for the use of medical marijuana to alleviate patients’ symptoms.

Chief Justice Anwar Usman read out the verdict, “Rejecting the application from the petitioner in its entirety,” reports Tempo.

It’s not the end of the road by any means, reports Coconuts Jakarta. But attempts to make Cannabis legal for therapeutic use in Indonesia have taken a huge setback after the court rejected the challenge to the nation’s narcotics law.

Hope Had Grown

Hope had grown in recent weeks for medical Cannabis legalization. Vice President Ma’ruf Amin called on the Indonesian Ulema Council — the highest Islamic clerical body in the Muslim-majority country — to issue a fatwa (religious edict) to allow it. Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin then said that the government will soon pass regulations allowing medical marijuana research.

Those events would once have seemed quite improbable in Indonesia. But the plight of parents changed all that. The parents filed a legal challenge against Indonesia’s Cannabis prohibition. Marijuana is classified as a Class I narcotic under the 2009 Narcotics Law — with the court in 2020.

Sadly, the judges claimed there was insufficient evidence for medical marijuana, reports Reuters. The court ruled the matter should remain an open legal policy.

What that essentially means is that it is now up to the government to conduct research on medical marijuana. The study will weigh its pros and cons. Government officials may then draft a bill to revise the Narcotics Law. The Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) could then pass it into law.

That means there’s still hope for medical marijuana in Indonesia as both the government and DPR have become open-minded about therapeutic uses for Cannabis.

In 2017, Fidelis Arie Sudewarto got eight months in prison for growing Cannabis used to treat his dying wife. Fidelis’ final sentence was still harsher than what his supporters or even the prosecution wished.

But the sentence was still an act of mercy. Indonesia’s notoriously harsh pot laws carry a maximum life sentence.

“People … Will Continue To Be Punished”

The plaintiffs argued the prohibition against using Cannabis medically is a constitutional violation of citizens’ rights to obtain health services and benefit from the development of science and technology.

“The Constitutional Court has only shifted the responsibility to the government by asking the government to immediately conduct research,” said Yosua Octavian, from the Legal Aid Institute, a civil society group involved in the case.

“The point has been rejected,” Octavian said. ”So people who use marijuana for health reasons in Indonesia will continue to be punished.”

Indonesia’s parliament said it would undertake a comprehensive study on the benefits of medical marijuana.

Video of Indonesian Mother Went Viral

Video an Indonesian mother posted on social media went viral.

Standing in downtown Jakarta, Santi Warastuti, a plaintiff whose 13-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy, held a placard: “Help, my child needs medical marijuana.”

In a briefing after the ruling, the 43-year-old mother urged the government to provide other solutions. “Research to turn [medical marijuana] into therapeutics will take a while, whereas we as parents of children with special needs are racing against time,” Warastuti said.

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