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American calls for medical marijuana

AN American expatriate has announced plans for a rally Saturday to press the government to allow for the distribution of medical marijuana.
Ray Christl, who has lived in Phnom Penh for nine years, said he plans to ask authorities for permission to open a medical marijuana dispensary. He hopes to model it after similar facilities in California, where patients obtain licences to purchase and ingest the drug for medical purposes.

“This would be a dispensary where we would grow small amounts,” Christl said. “We would get some simple immunity from the drug laws.”

Christl, a university professor who identifies himself as a pastor with the THC Ministry, “part of a whole group of spiritual and medical cannabis users”, said the arrangement would be respectful of local sensibilities. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

“We’re not trying to do a 4/20 here,” Christl said, referring to the unofficial holiday for marijuana smokers, who celebrate cannabis use every April 20 by lighting up in mass demonstrations. “We’re not trying to glamorise this.”

Cannabis is prohibited under Cambodia’s drug control law. Despite this, obtaining it is possible, Christl said. Speaking about using cannabis openly, however, is a different matter.

“That’s the whole point,” he said. “I’ve lived here for nine years and I haven’t made a big deal about it.... It just seems like now is the time to come out of the closet.”

Christl’s rally – which he has dubbed “high noon” – will begin at 12:30pm at Wat Phnom.

Health Ministry officials could not be reached Thursday.

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