Cannabis activists, and one Princess, are working hard to free Dr. G.
Amiruddin Nadarajan Abdullah, also known as Dr. Ganja or Dr. G for short, is awaiting a possible death sentence for selling chocolate bars and brownies made with hemp seed oil in Malaysia. Now, Malaysian Princess Tengku Chanela Jamidah and the Last Prisoner Project are working together to help appeal his case.
After experiencing the benefits of medicinal cannabis and hemp for his cancer recovery, Dr. G began to invite people suffering from cancer and other ailments to his village home in the district of Klang. He is not a formal doctor but was gifted the name “Dr. G” after his work sharing hemp oil medicine. Dr. G was arrested in 2017 and charged with 36 offenses under Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act. The 62-year-old cancer survivor and grandfather of five also spent 22 years serving in the Malaysian army. Malaysia currently has some of the strictest cannabis laws in the world, with a mandatory death penalty for convicted drug traffickers.
There is a documentary that details Dr. G’s heartbreaking story, with moments of the real-life phone call Dr. G had with his daughter Siti informing her of his arrest. Dr. G remains more hopeful and optimistic than anyone in his position should be forced to be, showing strength in the face of this unconscionable prison sentence.
A recent screening of the film and fundraising event in Hollywood, California, sought to shine a spotlight on Dr. G’s plight.
“I have a vision that the people of Malaysia will accept cannabis as an inherent human right,” says the event’s creator Princess Tengku Chanela Jamidah. “The decision is as simple as access to healthcare.” Princess Jamidah has been a force in the entertainment, fashion, and beauty industries for 15 years. Jamidah is Malaysian, Filipino and American, and since 2019 has used her platform to advocate for cannabis legalization. She works as official Patron for the Malaysian cannabis advocacy group MASA, as well as a Higher up of the Hivi community since 2020.
“I truly couldn’t imagine my father, who is similar in age to Dr. G, and has also had a similar mission of helping people his whole life, being arrested for his kindness,” says Jay Jackson, also known as Laganja Estranja, an actor and television personality made famous from her iconic role on RuPaul’s Drag Race. “It’s my hope that by providing visibility and teaching others, I can shift people’s perspectives and make access to plant medicine that much more possible for those outside of California. I think the first step though starts with educating yourself, which is exactly what happened at Jamidah’s fundraiser. It’s one thing to like and reshare a post on Instagram, but the true work begins when you give your time and heart to a cause.”
Princess Jamidah and Jackson are working with the Last Prisoner Project to dedicate as many resources as possible to Dr. G’s appeal and potential release. This marks the first international cannabis release push from the nonprofit. “Last Prisoner Project holds a vision of freedom for every last cannabis prisoner around the globe,” says Mary Bailey, Managing Director of Last Prisoner Project. Even with this important cause, Bailey points out that the “United States arrests and incarcerates more people for cannabis than anywhere else in the world.”
“Our expertise and focus is fighting for the release of those incarcerated domestically,” says Bailey, “as well as advocating for cannabis and criminal justice policy reform here at home. We thought that this was a great opportunity to use our platform to bring awareness to the injustice of Dr. G’s case.”
“Dr. G’s daughter Siti has decided to continue collecting donations up until next year,” says Princess Jamidah. You can contribute to Dr. G’s Crowdfunding campaign still, with all of the proceeds going directly to his case appeal for release. There is hope: in February of 2021, 30-year-old Muhammad Lukman was freed from a death sentence for medicinal cannabis trafficking upon appeal.
I spoke with Princess Jamidah about why she decided to step in to help Dr. G, how Malaysia views cannabis, and what the future could look like if she could design sensible cannabis regulation for her home country.
When did you first hear about Dr. G?
Princess Tengku Chanela Jamidah: I discovered Dr. G when I first became curious about cannabis and began my activism journey in 2019. I would browse through Facebook groups and have conversations with people in the Malaysian community as there was a shared sense of empathy and responsibility. I felt truly compelled to learn more about his story and to support him in my capacity.
What does Malaysia need in order to pass cannabis regulation, or to move the needle in the right direction for cannabis laws? What does it take for those readers who may not know much about the Malaysian governmental process, to change these laws?
According to the 1952 Dangerous Drug Act, there is a provision that allows for the importation, possession and exportation of cannabis as long as it is authorized by the Malaysian health minister. In that sense, there already exists within the DDA acceptance for the government to recognize cannabis as medicine. What is needed now is for a new bill to be passed in parliament to amend the DDA and remove cannabis as a dangerous drug. The right strategy would be to engage with the government by providing them with enough facts, data and information so they are persuaded that it is necessary to amend the DDA as it benefits the Malaysian society and its people.
The Malaysian people need to support this change. First they must understand that the DDA is a colonial construct imposed on us prior to independence. The motives and reasoning behind this act remain questionable as there was no respect for local culture and traditional, herbal healing methods already practiced and embedded in our society. In fact it was recorded in the Kitab Tib, A Malay medical manuscript that was translated to English in 1886 that Indian Hemp was used to treat various illnesses as far back as the 1800s.
We have to shed this construct that Hemp and Cannabis is an evil drug and remind our people that this was something our ancestors used hundreds of years ago. It starts with education and coming from a permissibility angle in Islam as there is so still so much confusion around the plant and its Medicinal use. My goal is to open the pathway for discussion and intelligent dialogue with faith leaders and medical professionals through my Halal Hemp initiative. My partners and I at Sayris Capital predict that the halal hemp industry is estimated at USD54bill globally on medical use alone taking into consideration the global Muslim population at 7.9bill. (UN source)
To use your platform and your name for healing and to enact positive change in your country is profound. Do you ever fear backlash or repercussions from the Malaysian government for speaking out on behalf of plant medicine? What are the risks you take in order to stand up for Dr. G?
From day one, I began this journey with pure intentions. I have consistently stated that my goal is to get plant medicine to my people. I am aware that there are many within the family and outside of the family who oppose what I do. This is not what I fear. I fear living a life that is not in honor of my authenticity and truth, I believe the plant is extremely intelligent and she is our teacher and I would rather live my life in acknowledgment of that truth than live a life deprived of my soul’s path and mission.
We must consider the epileptic child, the cancer patient, Alzheimers and Parkinson’s patients that are faced with pain, suffering and risk their lives everyday deprived of this medicine that has been proven to heal. What are my risks compared to their courage and survival? Until I return to Malaysia I do not know what I am faced with, but whilst I am here in the US, safe and within legal bounds, I will continue fighting for those that do not have the same privilege. Let my voice and activism be a vessel for Dr. G as we believe in the same truths, I will not stop until he is free.
If you could paint a picture as ideological as you want, what would your ideal Malaysia look like when it comes to sensible cannabis laws? Do you foresee the potential someday for a type of medical industry, adult-use industry in your country?
I have a vision that the people of Malaysia will accept cannabis as their inherent human right. The decision is as simple as access to healthcare. That the laws will change and the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis will happen in the near future as we honor the medical journals, the numerous studies and trials and results that prove its healing properties. Realistically, we are not yet sophisticated enough to kickstart this industry on our own, it’s all about collaboration and foreign technologies may be called in to collaborate. However, we need to engage our own farmers, growers and existing expertise to cultivate and take care of our land. Our local sensibilities and culture must always be honored.
Cooperation between the relevant ministries, government agencies, local community and non-governmental organizations are essential to maintain transparency. There must also be a council where appointing various intellectuals, faith leaders, medical professionals, humanitarians, industry leaders and more can put forward initiatives that will serve our people. I do see a regulated medical industry on the horizon and I believe this will be Malaysia’s salvation. We are going through a COVID crisis and we are now in the midst of political instability, so the answer is crystal clear. Not only can we create jobs, free our prisoners and use this as a roadmap for economic recovery, we have the opportunity to actually save lives. That is the greatest gift of humanity and I have faith in my Malaysia.