There’s a political showdown brewing in Malaysia, and cannabis is at the center of it all. This week, Dr. Nadiah Norudin, a leading member of the healthcare activist group I-Medik, spoke out against a proposal to decriminalize marijuana in Malaysia.
“It reduces the IQ development of youths and also babies who are exposed to marijuana while in the womb,” Norudin said. “Research also shows that many children using marijuana have trouble finishing school, which contributes to their dropping out.”
She went on to claim that marijuana can be addictive, that it can make people more susceptible to anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia, and that decriminalizing cannabis would lead to a whole variety of social problems.
But Syed Rosli Jamalulail, a member of Malaysia’s first political party UMNO (United Malays National Organization), wasn’t buying anything Norudin was saying.
Jamalulail lashed back at the doctor in the media, saying that she’d been making exaggerated claims and citing false statistics.
“This doctor is insincere and is not speaking truthfully,” he told reporters. “She’s a peddler of Western synthetic drugs.”
Jamalulail countered Dr. Norudin’s claims that marijuana is dangerous, going so far as to say that not only is cannabis not harmful it’s actual, as he described it, one of “Allah’s creations.”
He also expressed frustration that Norudin was so quick to demonize marijuana, but said nothing about prescription painkillers, cigarettes, or alcohol, all of which he says are significantly more dangerous than marijuana.
The politician ultimately accused Dr. Norudin of trying to keep marijuana illegal so that the medical establishment could continue prescribing pharmaceutical drugs without competition from cannabis and cannabis-derived medicine.
The conversation going on in Malaysia is similar to debates occurring around the world.
In the United States, for example, there are ongoing discussions about whether or not cannabis might be an effective alternative to prescription painkillers, especially opioid and narcotic painkillers.
These discussions have picked up steam in recent months in response to what many are beginning to call an epidemic of heroin overdoses, many of which stem from earlier addictions to prescription opioids. Many in the medicinal cannabis community claim that marijuana offers a much safer, non-addictive way to manage pain and other health conditions that could avoid this dangerous pattern.