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When did you first hear about Dr. G?

A recent screening of the film and fundraising event in Hollywood, California, sought to shine a spotlight on Dr. G’s plight.

Galen Oakes / @galen.oakes

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Dr. G recently turned 62 in prison.

Princess Jamidah and Jackson are working with the Last Prisoner Project to dedicate as many resources as possible to Dr. G’s appeal and potential release. This marks the first international cannabis release push from the nonprofit. “Last Prisoner Project holds a vision of freedom for every last cannabis prisoner around the globe,” says Mary Bailey, Managing Director of Last Prisoner Project. Even with this important cause, Bailey points out that the “United States arrests and incarcerates more people for cannabis than anywhere else in the world.”

Amiruddin Nadarajan Abdullah, also known as Dr. Ganja or Dr. G for short, is awaiting a possible death sentence for selling chocolate bars and brownies made with hemp seed oil in Malaysia. Now, Malaysian Princess Tengku Chanela Jamidah and the Last Prisoner Project are working together to help appeal his case.

The Malaysian people need to support this change. First they must understand that the DDA is a colonial construct imposed on us prior to independence. The motives and reasoning behind this act remain questionable as there was no respect for local culture and traditional, herbal healing methods already practiced and embedded in our society. In fact it was recorded in the Kitab Tib, A Malay medical manuscript that was translated to English in 1886 that Indian Hemp was used to treat various illnesses as far back as the 1800s.

But arguably the most aggressive anti-cannabis/hemp movement happened in the United States. Harry Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics led a racism-based smear campaign in the 1930s to demonise the cannabis plant:

Chart from: Healthline

Magu (‘Mago’ in Korean, ‘Mako’ in Japanese), was allegedly a 5th-6th century A.D. seamstress and healer who was heavily associated with hemp. Image from: Ancient Origins

So what exactly is hemp, and why did it become illegal?

While the proposed legalisation of hemp production in Malaysia marks a potential boom in hemp-based products, until the decriminalisation of drugs actually happens here, there might still be issues with the use of said products.

Additionally, the legal status of the compounds THC and CBD on their own differ somewhat in Malaysian drug laws: THC is listed as a ‘dangerous drug’ under Part III of the First Schedule of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, while CBD on its own is not listed anywhere in the same act.

While the date for said cultivation is yet to be announced, this move could be pretty significant as hemp could soon replace palm oil as Malaysia’s main agricultural resource. Hemp is far more sustainable compared to palm oil, and has already received positive feedback from the Ministry of Agriculture.

In the 1960s, the Nixon administration used a similar smear strategy (allegedly with the same racial intent, as claimed by his former aide), and all cannabis varieties, including hemp, officially became illegal for any use after the Controlled Substances Act was signed into law by President Nixon.

Documents seen by the BBC confirm that both Prime Minister Mahathir and Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad have been in contact with the organisers of a privately-funded project involving Malaysian and Indian researchers looking at the potential for medical cannabis to treat depression. And Nurul Izzah Anwar, the MP, says she has begun drafting a bill to present in parliament.

But for those changes to happen it will require "a lot of the Muslim countries that are traditionally quite strongly anti-drug" to change their positions. "And I wonder if Malaysia", he added, "will now act as a key opinion leader amongst that cluster of countries to implement change."

In October, Yuki and her friends received another surprise. Mr Mahathir's reform-minded government announced it was going to to abolish the death penalty completely. Suspects convicted for drug trafficking, like Lukman, could however still face jail for decades or life.

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"I had two growing kids at that time, one was nine years old, the other was 11. The two of them needed my attention but I could not give it to them because I was so sick," she said. After years of using opiates to deal with pain caused by her various medical problems, she felt liberated.

A petition gathered tens of thousands of signatures and high-profile politicians began to weigh in, including Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who said the case should be reviewed. Nurul Izzah Anwar, an MP with the governing coalition, said it looked to be a "miscarriage of justice".

Yuki describes smoking her first joint as a turning point in her life.

Malaysians like her who advocate drug policy reform feel that international momentum is on their side. They recently watched Canada and South Africa legalise the drug completely.