The planting of psychoactive plants like ketum is allowed for research purpose only but requires a letter of authorisation issued by the Health Minister.
This is contained in the Poisons (Amendment) Bill 2019, which was tabled for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat by Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad.
According to the book on the Bill that was distributed to the media today, the amendment was among others to establish control over psychoactive plants which covers a variety of processes such as cultivation, importation, exportation, supply and possession of the materials involved.
“It empowers the Health Minister to permit any public officer or officials from the statutory body to cultivate psychoactive plants for research, education, experiment or medical purposes only.
“It is subject to the terms and conditions that may be prescribed in the letter of approval issued by the minister,” according to the book.
The purpose of the amendment is to extend the scope of Act 366 to include control on psychoactive plants, streamlining control over activities related to poison and psychotropic substances and to update Act 366 to meet current needs.
The amendment also includes imposing a maximum fine of RM200,000 or a maximum seven-year jail term or both if found guilty of illegally planting psychoactive plants.
The book also mentioned that the director-general of Health Ministry or a pharmaceutical enforcement officer appointed, will be authorised to issue compounds for poison and psychoactive plants related offences.
Under the new section 34A of the Act also seeks to protect any licensed officer, authorised officer, member of the Poison Board, or any person acting on his orders from any action or prosecution while carrying out their duties (issuing compounds).
The ministry will set a procedure to issue compounds via a regulation and the amount of the compound must not exceed 50 per cent of the maximum fine for the related offence.
According to the book, after the amendment, Act 366 would be known as the Poisons and Psychoactive Plants Act 1952.
Also included in the amendment are new provisions for psychoactive plant control, flexibility of supply and sale of poisons, protection of consumer rights or patients receiving medication and increasing deterrent penalties.
Other amendments include penalties for wrongdoing or negligence endangering human life, fines not exceeding RM200,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or both according to Act 366.
The government before this maintained its stance not to encourage the cultivation of ketum for commercial purposes.
It then decided to make amendments to Act 366 that included control on psychoactive plants like ketum and also studied ways on how to deal with it.
The debate on the bill for the second reading is expected to be tabled at the current Dewan Rakyat session which will take place until Dec 5.