A prominent lawmaker overseeing trade and industry in Indonesia has urged his colleagues to legalize marijuana cultivation and permit exports.

Cannabis has been illegal in the sun-drenched archipelago ever since the Dutch colonial rulers imposed a ban in 1927. However, Indonesia has a long history of growing marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes.

It is the world’s fourth largest country by population and it benefits from a great deal of fertile land, clement weather and cheap labour costs, so it has significant potential in the global marijuana trade. A lawmaker called Rafi, who serves the electoral district of Aceh in the House of Representatives, believes it is time for Indonesia to gain an economic boost by legalizing cannabis and exporting it around the world.

Rafi is a member of the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and he is also part of House Commission VI, which has a responsibility for trade and industry. He proposed legalization in a hearing with Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto.

He said the country should be “flexible” when it comes to marijuana, which can be exported for pharmaceutical purposes around the world. Rafi also believes it would help the world see Indonesia in a new light.

The proposal is sure to spark controversy, as Indonesia has some of the world’s strictest drug laws. However, Rafi said marijuana is commonly grown across Aceh, a semi-autonomous province on the northwest tip of Sumatra, which is at the westernmost edge of the archipelago.

Aceh is close to Thailand, which became the first country in the region to legalize medical cannabis at the tail end of 2018. A flourishing medical marijuana industry has taken shape in Thailand, which also previously had strict anti-drug laws. That could create a domino effect in the region.

PKS secured 50 seats in the 2019 Indonesian legislative election, making it the sixth largest party, with 8.21% of the seats. However, the largest party, PDI-P, only secured 19.33% of the seats, highlighting the fractured nature of the Indonesian government.

PKS can be influential, as it sits in a minority coalition with Gerindra, PAN, and Demokrat.

Rafi’s views on cannabis will be welcome by leaders of the Lingkar Ganja Nusantara movement, which is working towards marijuana reform in Indonesia.

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