The first time that American Ray Christl smoked a joint in 1970, he says, he experienced a religious epiphany that set him on a spiritual journey. Now the Phnom Penh resident wants Cambodia to embrace the healing powers of the herb for treating drug addiction.
Mr Christl’s campaign to legalize marijuana and hallucinogenic therapy for drug addicts in Cambodia has gotten off to a rough start. Reportedly only six people showed up to his rally at Wat Phnom in Daun Penh district on Saturday, which he later described as a “floppola.”
Standing near Wat Phnom, Mr Christl, said marijuana can help drug users with withdrawal from methamphetamine addiction and could even offer financial benefits to Cambodia if it becomes an international source of medical cannabis.
“I believe that people have a right to use plants to heal and cannabis is a God-given right,” the 57-year-old said after the rally. “Cambodia could really gain from this.” Mr Christl sent out a notice to media organizations last week about the rally. He said only six people had attended the rally but that four of them left when a radio reporter appeared.
Mr Christl also advocates the use of the hallucinogen ibogaine, a substance synthesized from African plants and banned in several Western countries. Mr Christl said ibogaine would offer addicts a spiritual journey to allow them to understand their addiction better.
With plans to contact the Ministry of Health soon to discuss his ideas, Mr Christl said he believes that his chances for success are “excellent,” even though marijuana is currently illegal in Cambodia.
A Ministry of Health official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mr Christl’s suggestions will likely be rejected.
Graham Shaw, a World Health Organization technical officer for drug dependence issues, said there is not enough evidence for ibogaine treatment and marijuana is not a recommended treatment by the WHO.
Though marijuana is legal in some traditional uses such as in small amounts in food and for hill tribes, he said there’s no reason to use it to treat addicts in Cambodia.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)