Indonesia made a splash when a decree from earlier this year declaring cannabis a “medical plant” in the eyes of the government officially got on the public’s radar. Now, the Agricultural Ministry in Indonesia is revising this decree, as cannabis is still illegal in Indonesia with no legalization in sight. 

The proclamation originally went viral via an Instagram post from the Nusantara Marijuana Network (LGN), a group that fights for cannabis legalization and advocacy in Indonesia. According to this degree, cannabis has been considered a medical plant since 2006 by the federal government; this just hasn’t necessarily been public knowledge.

“The decree will be revised soon, after we coordinate with the National Narcotics Agency [BNN], the Health Ministry and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences [LIPI],” the ministry’s vegetable and medicinal plant director, Tommy Nugraha, said in a statement on Saturday. “Marijuana’s inclusion on the medicinal plant list means that it can only be used for research, as stipulated in Article 67 of Law No. 13/2020 on horticulture. Currently, we record no legal marijuana farmers in Indonesia.”

Thus, the “medical plant” designation is very ironic, considering the strict laws against cannabis Indonesia still clings to and doesn’t show signs of giving up. As recently as 2015, a court in Bali sentenced both an Indonesian man and an Australian man who shared a joint to one year in prison. Collectively, the two had less than a gram between them in the joint. And in 2017, a man was sentenced to eight months in jail and a fine equivalent to $69,000 for growing 39 plants in order to extract oil for treating his sick wife.

The Status of Cannabis in Indonesia

Currently, in Indonesia, cannabis is still considered a type-1 narcotic, meaning it is on the same level as cocaine and opium according to national drug laws. Possession of cannabis carries up to 12 years in prison or a large fine. Those who produce or traffic cannabis could serve up to 15 years in prison and pay an even harsher fine.

Still, despite the current status of cannabis in Indonesia, this “medical plant” designation was to help farmers shift to growing cannabis, allowing them the possibility of research to prepare for a grow. However, there were still no cannabis farmers on the record at the time of this writing, as this designation was not very well-known outside of government circles. 

This all begs the question: why the reversal? If Indonesia really wants to move towards slightly less stringent policies, then why reverse something that simply states the plant could have medicinal properties?

The answer appears to be Agricultural Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo. He claims that this reversal is part of his plan to “eradicate drug abuse.” Last year, police in Indonesia seized 11.2 tons of cannabis total, and it’s still a viable black market in the illegal country. 

It won’t be until Indonesia fully embraces that cannabis can have medical properties that they can move forward into looking at a viable legal or medical industry. It seems that they are not yet ready to take that step.

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