Indonesian court refuses to legalize medical marijuana

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Constitutional Court of Indonesia on Wednesday rejected a judicial review of the country’s drug law that would pave the way for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.

Three mothers of children with cerebral palsy, backed by civil society organizations, sued in 2020 to overhaul the country’s strict drug law, alleging that medicinal marijuana to treat symptoms.

The judges said there was not enough research to justify a decision in favor of the plaintiffs, but urged the government to “immediately” conduct research on the therapeutic use of drugs.


“The Court must emphasize that the Government [should] take action immediately… The results of which can be used to determine policy, including in this case the possibility of changing the law,” said Judge Suhartoyo, who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name.

The decriminalization of marijuana would be a game changer for the Southeast Asian country, which has one of the world’s most stringent drug laws, punishing large quantities of drug possession or trafficking, including life imprisonment and the death penalty.

The plaintiffs argued that the prohibition of drug use for medical reasons is a constitutional violation of the rights of citizens to receive medical services and benefit from the development of science and technology.

“The Constitutional Court only shifted the responsibility to the government by asking the government to investigate immediately,” said Yosua Octavian of the Legal Aid Institute, a civil society group involved in the case.

Indonesia has one of the most stringent drug laws in the world.  Decriminalizing marijuana for medical use would be a disruptive move.

Indonesia has one of the most stringent drug laws in the world. Decriminalizing marijuana for medical use would be a disruptive move.
(David McNew/Getty Images)

“This clause was rejected… So people who use marijuana for health reasons in Indonesia will continue to be punished.”

The issue gained momentum after a campaigner’s video went viral after being posted on social media.

standing in center of JakartaSanti Varastuti, one of the plaintiffs, whose 13-year-old daughter suffers from cerebral palsy, held up a sign that read: “Help, my child needs medical marijuana.”

At a briefing following the decision, the 43-year-old mother urged the government to find other solutions.

“Explore to transform [medical marijuana] It will take some time to get into therapy, while we as parents of children with special needs run with time,” she said.

She told Reuters last week that her daughter, who first had seizures when she was four, was a “big-hearted” teenager who was once an active child but now struggles with frequent seizures.


The Indonesian Parliament has said it will conduct a comprehensive study on the benefits of medical marijuana.

Any legalization moves will follow Thailand, which became the first country in the region to green-light medical marijuana in 2018, and cannabis cultivation and consumption this year.