Above: Group Picture with Cannabis Researchers at University Putra Malaysia (UPM)

Malaysians have traditionally used plants and herbs as supplements to ensure they live a well balanced lifestyle. Cannabis itself was a well known and widely used plant before the prohibition and war on drugs began. In fact, Tan Sri Kadir Yusof stated on a newspaper article printed in 1973 that the cannabis grown in Pontian, Johor was once amongst the best in the world!

Newspaper Article from 5 September 1973, retrieved from: Facebook “Demi Rakyat Johor” page

Indonesia, India, Thailand, The Philippines and many other neighboring countries are currently in progress of reforming their laws around cannabis to allow its use by their citizens as medicine and to open up for research. They to share a long history of cannabis use in their diets till this very day in certain states like Aceh, Indonesia and Uttarakhand, India. Yet, beneath all the hustle and bustle around cannabis law reforms, scientists like Prof Dr Mohamad Aris Mohd Moklas from UPM Department of Human Anatomy (sitting at desk) and his students (standing from left to right): Ms Fatin Nadzirah from UiTM Puncak Alam Campus, Health Science Faculty; Mr Sura Sreenivasulu from UTAR Department of Preclinical Sciences; and Dr Mohd Amir Bin Kamaruzzaman from UKM Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine; with Mr Harish Kumar, Chairman of MASA.

Currently in collaboration with UPM, several other universities like UiTM, UKM and UTAR are conducting experimental animal studies as a precursor to human clinical trials in the future. As shared before on “MASA Publications”, Prof Dr Aris has published his findings on lab rats that Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has positive effects to eliminate depression related symptoms. He has also shown that THC could help treat Alzheimer’s Disease. Following his research, Ms Fatin Nadzirah from UiTM is now almost completed with her study proving the same by conducting experimental trials on lab rats induced with Alzheimer’s Disease at UPM.

Dr Mohd Amir from UKM is working together with Mr Sura Sreenivasulu from UTAR to complete the experimental research at UPM where they will administer Cannabidiol (CBD) to the disease induced lab rats and monitor their response to several experimental tests. Dr Mohd Amir is interested to understand how CBD could treat neuro-degenerative disorders like diseases on animal model while Mr Sura is studying the preclinical sciences related to the study. In all studies mentioned, the pure compound isolate extracted from the plant is used. This is because synthetic compounds is not suitable for human use. MASA will document the research done by Dr Mohd Amir by photograph and video to show the actual effects and applications of cannabis.

It is determined in Prof Dr Aris’s study that the THC isolate potency of anything more than 3 mg/kg is considered toxic in the animal model. This means that natural THC content of cannabis plants are very safe to use and non-toxic to humans. Interestingly, although fellow scientists love to study more about this eluding plant that has been kept hidden for over 80 years in the scientific research field, it is extremely difficult to gain access to the substance! There was a time when Prof Dr Aris’s student, Dr Mahdi had to defer his whole study from using pure THC isolates to “WIN” synthetic THC due to bureaucratic issues cause from the misunderstanding of the compound. Ms Fatin Nadzirah elaborates here struggle to obtain THC from Switzerland for her study. She made her order for the THC isolates in early 2020 when Covid-19 first took large that delayed her study even further.

She purchased 9 vials of 100 mg/kg THC content each which was the approved amount for her proposed study that took about 8 months to arrive from Switzerland to UPM. Ironically, the whole process and timeline to purchase other scheduled substances like Morphine is much simpler and faster because of its wide acceptance and use. Similarly, other previously unknown and unlisted compounds extracted from the same cannabis plant like CBD, Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabinol (CBN) and hundreds more are easier to be passed by the authorities as the substance does not cause an alert unlike THC. The compound used by Ms Fatin Nadzirah is 99.9% THC which made it stand out as a “Dangerous Drug”, yet it’s applications in the medical field is shifting the way doctors used to look at human diseases.

Vaccine test on laboratory mouse applied by injection, retrieved from abc10.com

Since MASA was incorporated in 2018, Prof Dr Aris (also MASA Scientific Advisor) has repeatedly proposed to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other related government agencies for the authorization to start a clinical trial on humans using cannabis extract to determine whether it can save lives. Also not to forget those who were incarcerated by the law and lost to the “War on Drugs”. Its is sad to realize that although the name suggests that the war is on “Drugs” yet the “People” are the ones who suffer. Drug addiction has been around for thousands of years, where people from different parts of the world find themselves inclined towards consuming a certain substance continuously for spiritual purposes, treatment, relieve, leisure and other personal reasons. Among the most common substances we get addicted to are sugar and coffee.

Cannabis or more accurately it’s psychoactive substance THC on the other hand, has been tested in many international studies and is shown to be less addictive than coffee! Furthermore, in the latest National Anti-drug Agency (AADK) report, it is stated that only about 2.0% to 2.5% of all drug offenders detained by them used cannabis. And each cannabis user under their care and observation caused minimal to almost no negative effect to the society. The fear of cannabis is due to the high profile cases surrounding it plus the “Death Sentence” they are slapped with for the possession of just 200 grams of any form of the cannabis plant. After many lives have been lost and destroyed in the meaningless war which only feeds the illegal black market, MASA hopes that the right changes will take place to empower the people to heal and progress in life no matter their status or current habits like drug addiction. These people need our support and guidance more that violence and discrimination.

Latest updates on UPM: Currently awaiting approval from the government to cultivate various strains of cannabis plants to be used for clinical trials in the near future.