Islamic lawmaker and pro-cannabis group want Indonesia to export cannabis

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Out of all the countries in Southeast Asia, Indonesia has some of the deadliest drug laws in place. In spite of this, a report by the Jakarta Post has confirmed that an Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician and House of Representatives lawmakers want to legalize cannabis exports in Indonesia.

The huge country, which is home to approximately 274 million people, constitutes the mainland and capital city of Jakarta, as well as 18,000 islands; including the jungle-esque landscape of Sumatra, Sulawesi, Surabaya and, of course, the famous surfer’s hotspot of Bali. 

Drugs are no joke in Indonesia, with dealers facing the death penalty if they’re caught. One specific incident that attracted global attention was the execution of two Australian ringleaders from the drug smuggling gang known as the “Bali Nine.” Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were shot dead by firing squad in 2015.

In spite of deadly laws pertaining to cannabis cultivation, sale and use throughout Indonesia, advocacy group Lingkar Ganja Nusantara (LGN) a name that translates to “Cannabis Circle Archipelago” is spreading the word about this wonderful plant. 

LGN is supportive of legal cannabis exports. The group’s efforts, combined with the Islamic politician’s suggestion about legalizing cannabis exports in Indonesia, tell us that the country is gradually opening up to discussing the plant’s prospective benefits; as opposed to its indecorous reputation.

Cannabis exports in Indonesia: The Aceh region boasts serious cultivation potential

It was during a recent hearing with Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto that the Trade Ministry was encouraged to legalize cannabis exports in Indonesia. House Commission VI lawmaker Rafli is in charge of providing oversight for everything related to trade and industry.

“So Pak, how about we make ganja [cannabis] a good export commodity?” suggested Rafli, who believes that high-grade cannabis plants could be exported from the Aceh region; his electoral district. 

Throughout history, the Acehnese people have favored cannabis as a cooking ingredient. Rafli claims that cannabis in Aceh could potentially be prescribed to patients as an alternative to traditional types of medical treatment; e.g. opioids. In the event that cannabis exports in Indonesia are legalized, Rafli has offered to cultivate cannabis on a plot of his own land.

“[Cannabis], for instance, [can be exported] for maybe pharmaceutical purposes or other uses, but we shouldn’t be too strict about this. We should be flexible, explained Rafli, who has the support of cannabis LGN founder, Dhira Narayana.

(Pictured) Dhira Narayana

A Jakarta native who now resides in Bumi Serpong Damai (BSD) city in the Serpong district of South Tangerang, Greater Jakarta, the 32-year-old  is frequently in the public eye for his lobbying efforts. 

During a recent interview, Narayana told me that he thinks Indonesia could stand to benefit from the export of processed medicinal goods; not raw plant material. He says that processed medical cannabis exports could benefit patients who suffer from conditions like cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy and stroke. 

“Exporting cannabis? The real question should be: Why was it destroyed?,” Narayana asks rhetorically. “In fact, BNN reported that 130 tons of dried [cannabis] was destroyed in 2019. Imagine if that amount was processed into finished goods; there will definitely be economical value.”

Narayana says that, in order for Indonesia to experience an economic turnaround, a cannabis processing industry must be properly established.

Obstacles remain for legal cannabis exports in Indonesia

Although the suggestion about legal cannabis exports in Indonesia indicates that the Asian country could be waking up to the potential of pot, obstacles remain. Cannabis has been outlawed in the tropical archipelago since 1927; when a ban was initially imposed by Dutch colonial rulers. With President Joko Widodo currently in power a man who, in 2017, ordered police to shoot drug dealers on-sight legalizing cannabis exports in Indonesia will not be an easy feat.

Indonesia’s thriving tobacco industry is expected to yield USD $25,479 million this year; unsurprising since the country is home to 57 million smokers, or 34 percent of the population! With that being said, legal weed could pose a threat to the country’s tobacco market. Moreover, the vast majority of Indonesian people are devoted to the Islam religion, which prohibits the use of intoxicants. Although the Quran does not directly forbid cannabis, many Muslims deem it to be ‘halal’ (forbidden).

Then again, if lawmakers decide to legalize cannabis exports in Indonesia, the world’s largest island country could experience a surge of economic growth; not to mention prospective investor interest. In nearby Thailand, investors are already flooding into the Kingdom’s newly-legal medical cannabis market, which has been thriving since December 2018. 

According to the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), cannabis remains to be the most commonly-used illicit substance in Indonesia. The Agency has already dismissed Rafli’s suggestion for cannabis exports.