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Indonesian minister backs state cannabis farms

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A gaffe-prone Indonesian minister has backed the idea of state-run cannabis farms in a country that imposes the death penalty for people caught trafficking the drug.

State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan, whose slogan is "manufacturing hope", said he warmed to the idea after a pharmacist told him about cannabis's medicinal effects.

"This idea was proposed by a pharmacist, who said marijuana seeds can be used as medicine for heart disease and cancer," Iskan was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Antara earlier this week.

"Why doesn't the ministry consider managing marijuana plantations as an alternative to other medicines, instead of always burning it?" he said. Soldiers and police regularly torch cannabis fields as part of eradication efforts.

Indonesia has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Trafficking more than one kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of marijuana carries a maximum sentence of death by firing squad.

Iskan, a media tycoon and potential presidential candidate, is known as an attention seeker who regularly gets himself caught up in embarrassing situations.

In January, the minister charged with modernising the country's state sector crashed a $300,000 prototype electric sports car, held up as being in the vanguard of Indonesia's auto sector, into a cliff.

In one of his best-known publicity stunts, he jumped out of Jakarta's notorious gridlock to personally lift a toll gate and usher cars through.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130425/indonesian-minister-backs-state-cannabis-farms