Jakarta. The government has revealed a plan to review the marijuana ban in Indonesia, marking a shift in tone that many hope would pave the way for the use of the addictive substance for medical purposes in the country.
"The government will first study the legality of marijuana for medical purposes. We will see the pros and cons," Tubagus Erif Faturahman, the head of public relations at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, said in a statement on Wednesday.
"If there are indeed many positives, the government will certainly legalize marijuana for medical use. That too with strict mechanisms and regulations to avoid [misuses]," Tubagus said.
Indonesia recognizes marijuana as narcotics and has banned its use for recreational or medical purposes. Still, that has not dissuaded civil activists from campaigning for legalizing marijuana, especially for the latter.
Tubagus's comment came after a public plea of parents couple to a cerebral palsy patient went viral earlier this week. The husband-wife pair Sunarta and Santi Warastuti walked to the Constitutional Court on International Anti-Narcotics Day on Sunday. At that time, Santi was walking carrying a placard, "Please, my child needs medical marijuana."
Famous singer Andien Aisyah posted a picture of the mother carrying the placard on her Instagram account, drawing comments from the authorities and the public alike.
Chief Comr. Endra Zulpan, the head of public relations at the Jakarta Police, said the police would have to arrest anyone if they used marijuana today, even for medical purposes.
"Cannabis is still prohibited. If you want to change the law, the authority is not with us, but in the DPR," he said, referring to the House of Representatives by its acronym.
The House's deputy speaker, Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, said that DPR had met with Santi on Monday, hearing her plea for medical marijuana legalization. Sufmi said he would ask the House's Commission III, which oversees law and legislation, autonomy, human rights, and security affairs, to hold a hearing about this issue.
"We would take steps to encourage Commission III, which happens to work on the 2009 Law about Narcotics revision, to hold a hearing about this issue," Sufmi said.
Vice President Maruf Amin also weighed in on the discourse, saying that the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), a government-financed Islamic clerical organization, should start working on a fatwa, or edicts, for medical marijuana. MUI's rulings do not carry any legal weight.
"I have asked MUI to immediately make a fatwa as a guide so that we don't overdo it and cause harm," Maruf said in a statement on Tuesday.
Appeal to Constitutional Court
The mother, Santi Warastuti, is one of the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit for judicial review in the 2009 Law about Narcotics to the Constitutional Court in November 2020.
Several other civil organizations also became plaintiffs, namely the legal think-tank Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), pro-bono law firm LBH Masyarakat, law think-tank Indonesia Judicial Research Society (IJRS), and Bali Health Foundation (Yakeba), among others.
Since then, the Constitutional Court has held 11 hearings for the case, taking in arguments from the plaintiffs, the government, and the legislators. But, it has yet to make any decision.
Santi and two other mothers challenged an explanation in the law that prohibits the use of marijuana for health uses. They considered that detrimental to their constitutional rights because it prevents them from getting treatment for their child.