Marijuana plants are pictured during a raid at a forest line in Lamteuba, Indonesia's Aceh province on May 18, 2022. (CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP)
JAKARTA – Indonesia's Constitutional Court on Wednesday rejected a judicial review of the country's narcotics law that would have paved the way for legalizing marijuana for medicinal use, a panel of nine judges ruled.
The issue gained traction after Santi Warastuti, whose 13-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy, called for the legalization of marijuana for medical research on a busy street in downtown Jakarta
Three mothers of children with cerebral palsy backed by civil society organizations filed a judicial review of the country's strict narcotics law in 2020, arguing for the use of medicinal marijuana to treat symptoms.
The judges said there was insufficient research to justify a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, but urged the government to "immediately" conduct research on the therapeutic usage of narcotics.
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"The court needs to emphasize that the government [should] immediately follow up … The results of which can be used to determine policies, including in this case the possibility of changing the law," said judge Suhartoyo, who like many Indonesians uses one name only.
Decriminalization of cannabis would be a dramatic shift for the Southeast Asian nation, which has one of the world's strictest anti-drug laws with penalties for possession or trafficking of large quantities of narcotics including life imprisonment and death.
The plaintiffs had argued that not being allowed to use narcotics for medical reasons was a constitutional violation of citizens' rights to obtain health services and benefit from the development of science and technology.
"The Constitutional Court has only shifted the responsibility to the government by asking the government to immediately conduct research," said Yosua Octavian, from the Legal Aid Institute, a civil society group involved in the case.
"The point has been rejected … So people who use marijuana for health reasons in Indonesia will continue to be punished."
The issue gained traction after Santi Warastuti, whose 13-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy, called for the legalization of marijuana for medical research on a busy street in downtown Jakarta.
The 43-year-old mother went viral on social media after she held a placard on a crowded thoroughfare that read: "Help, my child needs medical marijuana."
Indonesia's parliament has said it would undertake a comprehensive study on the benefits of medical marijuana.
Any moves to legalize would follow Thailand, which became the first country in the region to green-light medical marijuana in 2018, and cannabis cultivation and consumption this year.