Is this drug medicine? The cannabis conundrum

The debate over medical cannabis has been brewing in the region, with several countries around Singapore approving or looking to legalise it for treatment. But misconceptions over the plant and its benefits have created impressions of it being a miracle drug.

Dr Jenny Hwang preparing a dose of Epidiolex, a cannabidiol oil, for her six-year-old son Ian, who has a rare form of epilepsy. She began using it on Ian even before it became legal in South Korea late last year. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
Ms Kitty Chopaka of cannabis advocacy group Highland Network has been engaging the Thai government over medical cannabis. Pastor Kang Sung-seok heads a civil activist group that campaigns for the use of medical cannabis in South Korea. Dr Jenny Hwang
Mr N, a Thai farmer who was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2016, brews tea using cannabis buds. He claims it has kept him alive. ST PHOTO: AZIM AZMAN
Ms Kitty Chopaka of cannabis advocacy group Highland Network has been engaging the Thai government over medical cannabis. Pastor Kang Sung-seok heads a civil activist group that campaigns for the use of medical cannabis in South Korea. Dr Jenny Hwang
Ms Kitty Chopaka of cannabis advocacy group Highland Network has been engaging the Thai government over medical cannabis. ST PHOTO: AZIM AZMAN
Mr N, a Thai farmer who was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2016, brews tea using cannabis buds. He claims it has kept him alive.
Pastor Kang Sung-seok heads a civil activist group that campaigns for the use of medical cannabis in South Korea. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
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When his mother calls his name from across the living room in their home in Seoul, six-year-old Ian's eyes turn in her direction.

This was thought impossible two years ago, says his mother, Dr Jenny Hwang, 43. The boy suffers from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare and severe form of childhood epilepsy that impairs cognitive and physical functions.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 01, 2019, with the headline Is this drug medicine?The cannabis conundrum. Subscribe