Indonesia minister backs state cannabis farms


Is medical marijuana the wonder-drug it's cracked up to be?


Stacey Leasca

Gaffe-prone State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan has backed the idea of state-run cannabis farms in a country where trafficking pot gets the death penalty.

Iskan, whose slogan is "manufacturing hope," said he liked the idea after a pharmacist explained to him the medical effects of cannabis.

"This idea was proposed by a pharmacist, who said marijuana seeds can be used as medicine for heart disease and cancer," Iskan was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Antara earlier this week. "Why doesn't the ministry consider managing marijuana plantations as an alternative to other medicines, instead of always burning it?"

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Soldiers and police regularly burn cannabis fields as part of their efforts to eradicate the drug.

Iskan said the pharmacist also believed Indonesia had the ideal climate and land for growing marijuana.

"He has given me complete references for that. I am still studying them. But, if a state-owned enterprise had marijuana fields, there would surely be an uproar," Iskan said.

But national police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto dismissed the idea, saying it was highly unlikely the ministry would ever get involved in such a controversial business.

"We have a clear regulation on that. So, anyone who wants to plant (cannabis) needs to comply with the applicable law. If not, he will have violated the law," said Rianto, referring to a 2009 narcotics law that prohibits the drug from being used for medical purposes.

Indonesia's drug laws are some of the world's toughest, with trafficking more than 2.2 pounds leading to the possibility of a sentence of death by firing squad.