Ketum is considered a banned substance in Malaysia. However, the Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor has proposed to the Federal government to allow the export of ketum leaves to meet the high demand by pharmaceutical companies abroad.
As reported in Bernama, Sanusi said this move would not only help ketum growers in the country, but the government would also earn tax revenue through the export of the leaves.
He said that the ketum leaves that are grown in Kedah are in high demand, especially in the neighbouring country of Thailand, where they had already legalised ketum and is widely used for medical purposes.
“If there is a good technology for health being developed in neighbouring countries, and the demand for the leaves from here is high – because the grade of ketum leaves grown in Thailand is lower. I think the government should take advantage of this to become an exporter,” he said.
Sanusi said if the government legalised ketum, the state government is ready to appoint any of its subsidiaries to purchase and collect ketum leaves and act as the sole legal exporter in Kedah.
He said this legalising ketum will also help reduce enforcement activities and arrests related to ketum leaf smuggling at the country’s borders.
“We spend a lot of resources to enforce the ban on the export of ketum leaves as we have listed it under the Poisons Act 1952, and there are export restrictions, so our agencies have worked hard to stop these smuggling activities,” he added.
Sanusi then said he was surprised as the law allows planting these trees, but plucking the leaves and processing them is considered illegal.
“Of course, you can’t drink it just like that, that’s not good. It has to go through certain scientific methods to become medicine. So I hope this is given due attention, as it’s our loss. We have many crops on our land, but it’s considered illegal. It’s better if we legalise it for export,” he said.