Medical Marijuana Bill Endorsed In The Philippines, A Drug-War Torn Country
When I talk to my American friends or meet anyone from the USA, joking me about my president who is a known murderer responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in the Philippines for extra-judicial killings and the war on drugs, is pretty common. But then I say the same to them: it’s no secret that Trump isn’t really any better than Duterte.
However, I can say that Duterte is doing one thing right at the very least: he’s pro cannabis. He has vowed to kill anyone, including his own son, if found using drugs. Despite his clear hatred and aversion for drugs though, Duterte supports cannabis use.
This week, the house panel just endorsed medical cannabis use in the Philippines, and this is a huge reason to celebrate. Filipino advocates of medical cannabis are high about the fact that the House of Representatives just endorsed a bill permitting the use of cannabis for the treatment of debilitating and chronic health conditions. The House panel unanimously approved the draft report for the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act after thorough consultations and discussions with experts in controlled substances, advocacy groups, healthcare practitioners, and even patients, says Rodolfo Albano III, Isabela province representative and principal author of the bill.
Albano is optimistic about the fact that his bill passed at the committee level, all that’s left is that it gets approved by the house and senate levels. “I have high hopes under the Duterte administration that this bill would be enacted into law. Finally, there is hope for our people, especially our children, who suffer from medical conditions like epilepsy, cancer, and multiple sclerosis,” he says. “Unlike many medicl professionals, President Duterte has an open mind on medical cannabis,” Albano adds.
Albano goes on to say that after Duterte won his presidency, he was honest about his stance that he isn’t opposed to legalizing cannabis for medical use; Duterte is only against it for recreational use. “Medical marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine right now. There are medicines right now being developed or already in the market that have marijuana as a component… used for medical purposes,” Duterte said back then. “If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it, ever. It remains to be a prohibited item and there’s always the treat of being arrested. If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die,” Duterte said in the past.
In the Philippines, cannabis is still considered a prohibited substance according to the Dangerous Drug Act. Albano says that the plant “has been confirmed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses to treat chronic or debilitating diseases or medical conditions.” He goes to cite studies proving that cannabis is useful for several illnesses including chronic and severe pain, cachexia, seizures, nausea, epilepsy, muscle spasms, and multiple sclerosis. With Albano’s proposal, medical cannabis would be allowed for patients although there would be strict guidelines to be followed which will be issued by the Department of Health in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration.
Albano challenged opponents of medical cannabis to “shed your fear of the unknown and open your minds to its potential benefits to patients with debilitating ailments who need it.” He also adds, “Marijuana, even in its raw form, is not harmful, unlike tobacco and liquor.” Philippine doctors who support his bill also tell the house that in the United States, at least 23 states have approved cannabis for medical use and also cite the fact that there hasn’t been a single death recorded that has been attributed solely to cannabis use, unlike tobacco and alcohol.
Albano also addressed concerns that the law might have a potential for abuse. He said that the measure is clear about the prohibition of cannabis smoking. “It is very clear in the bill that you can’t smoke weed per se. You cannot even disperse it in its raw form and say, ‘just use this for tea.’ It has to be in medicinal form,” says the congressman. He said that the cannabis may be used in capsule, tablet, or edible form. In his proposal, he says, “medical cannabis compassion centers” that are licensed by the Department of Health will be put up with the objective of selling, supplying, and dispensing cannabis to eligible patients as well as their caregivers. The pharmacists will be licensed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Facilities will also be established for conducting medical and scientific research on cannabis use, and testing the plant for contaminants and potency. The DOH will issue identification cards for qualified patients once they have been certified as having a debilitating medical condition.
Other lawmakers explicitly support Albano’s bill. “The patient, caregiver, physician, or medical researcher who delivers, transports, uses, acquires, administers, cultivates, or manufactures dangerous drugs for medical purposes shall be exempt from criminal liability,” says the bill.