The Jakarta Post
State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan has made another controversial move by considering an offer to develop marijuana farms for medicinal purposes.
Dahlan, a media tycoon and potential presidential candidate, said on Tuesday that a pharmacist had suggested he get involved in this agricultural business.
'A pharmacist suggested that state-owned enterprises [SOEs] should develop marijuana fields for the production of medications,' he said in Jakarta as quoted by Antara.
'Why do state-owned enterprises not consider the possibility of developing cannabis farmland as an alternative to medication, instead of just burning the cannabis?' Dahlan asked.
According to Dahlan, the pharmacist said that marijuana leaves and seeds could cure heart disease and cancer. Moreover, the pharmacist believed that Indonesia's climate and land were ideal for marijuana planting, he said.
'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,' Dahlan said.
Law enforcers were quick to dismiss Dahlan's idea.
National Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto indicated that it was unlikely the ministry would get involved in the controversial agricultural enterprise.
'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,' Agus said on Wednesday.
Agus was referring to the 2009 Narcotics Law that categorizes all parts of the marijuana plant as narcotics type I. Article 8 (1) of the law stipulates that type I narcotics are prohibited from being used for medical purposes.
Agus' statement was echoed by National Narcotics Agency (BNN) spokesman Sr. Comr. Sumirat. 'The law prohibits the distribution and misuse of marijuana. It can only be used for science and research purposes,' he said on Wednesday.
Article 8 (2) stipulates that, 'In a limited amount, type I narcotics can be used for science and technology-development purposes, and diagnostic and laboratory reagents after gaining approval from the [health] minister and head of the Food and Drug Supervision Agency.'
When The Jakarta Post sought confirmation, an aide to Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said that the minister would not make an immediate statement.
According to Article 111 of the law, anyone who, without permission, plants or keeps narcotics type I faces a maximum penalty of 12 years' imprisonment and an Rp 8 billion (US$823,000) fine.
Although marijuana is widely known as an illegal and dangerous substance in Indonesia, a group called Lingkar Ganja Nusantara (the Nusantara Marijuana Network) has been trying to eradicate misconceptions about marijuana.
Established in 2008, the network has organized campaigns and discussions about the positive uses of marijuana, and has called on the government to legalize it.
Lingkar Ganja Nusantara chairman Irwan Syarif said that marijuana contained a chemical compound known as cannabinoid, which could be used as an effective painkiller to control nausea and to stimulate a person's appetite.
For industrial purposes, he said that the fiber from hemp, a type of cannabis plant, could be used as raw material in the production of rope, pulp, oil and food.
Long before marijuana was deemed an illegal substance, some communities in Indonesia used it as a spice for traditional cuisine.