Parliament Passes Poisons Amendment Bill After Three-Year Delay

The Dewan Rakyat today approved amendments to the Poisons Act that raises penalties and enhances enforcement powers, but omits mandatory prescriptions upon request.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 – The Dewan Rakyat today passed proposed legislation to increase penalties for offences under the Poisons Act, three years after the amendment was first tabled in 2019.

Despite criticism from Opposition MPs, the Poisons (Amendment) Bill 2022 was passed unanimously, giving Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin a confidence boost ahead of the tabling of the more contentious Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill, which proposes a generational ban on tobacco and vaping.

In response to concern over hefty fines proposed in the Poisons amendment bill, Khairy said the penalties mooted were proportionate with the fines stated in other relevant laws, such as the Medical Devices Act 2012 and the Food Act 1953.

Khairy added that while the maximum fine for general penalties is raised from RM3,000 to RM50,000, the court has the power to consider mitigating circumstances such as the seriousness of the offence before passing a sentence.

“I have to stress that the main principle of the amendment bill is to protect the people, the environment, and the country from the harmful effects of drug misuse from the mishandling of supplies. This is a life and death matter.

“The illegal purchase and control of medicines can lead to product diversion such as unlawful manufacturing of dangerous and psychotropic drugs,” Khairy told the Dewan Rakyat in his wind-up speech.

Khairy added that existing penalties under the Poisons Act, which were last amended more than three decades ago, did little to prevent repeat offenders from committing the same act or deter others from similar offences.

In explaining how the law will take effect, Khairy said individuals, not businesses, who commit illegal activities under the law will be held accountable.

“For example, if a person who is not a pharmacist supplies a type of poison without the pharmacist’s supervision, that offence will be on that person. If a registered pharmacist supplies a poison wholesale, the fault is on the registered pharmacist,” Khairy said.

On Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii’s concern on “who checks the enforcers”, Khairy said the law allows for a civil case to be filed in court if a person feels that the action taken against them is unjustified.

“The government’s policy is there can be recourse through civil suits, recourse through complaints filed via enforcement agencies like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) or the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), the public complaints system or through the minister where we can have internal investigations,” Khairy said.

The health minister said between 2017 and 2021, a total of 95 cases involving psychotropic substances were charged in court. 94 cases pleaded guilty, while one case was convicted. The amount of fines involved were RM508,900.

Enforcement activities were carried out by both the police and Customs Department.

On cases involving the prevention of enforcement actions, Khairy said 32 cases involving the intimidation or threatening of enforcement officers were recorded from 2016 until 2021.

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