JUST a day after the Philippine House of Representatives approved the move to reinstate the death penalty for drug-related offences, the House committee on health endorsed the use of marijuana for medical reasons.
House Bill 180, according to ABS-CBN News, prescribes the rules for the proper use of medical marijuana, including the designation of a qualified medical cannabis physician, a medical cannabis patient who shall be issued an identification card, a qualified medical cannabis caregiver and a qualified medical cannabis compassionate centre.
Rep. Seth Jalosjos sponsored the Bill on behalf of its author, Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, who was unable to attend the hearing.
Jalosjos believes that legalising marijuana for medical use “will benefit thousands of patients suffering from serious and debilitating diseases”.
The Bill also has the backing of the Philippine Cancer Society with Dr Jorge Ignacio saying he and other physicians at the organisation support the use of medical marijuana for patients with debilitating ailments and believe that the drug is capable of relieving certain medical conditions.
Medical marijuana has been frowned upon by Filipino leaders in the past, but Albano feels confident that his Bill will pass with President Rodrigo Duterte in power.
“I have high hopes under the Duterte administration that this measure 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 told the PhilStar.
“Unlike many medical professionals, President Duterte has an open mind on medical cannabis,” he said.
While Duterte has kept a strong stance against marijuana for recreational use, he has conceded that it may possess beneficial qualities in a medicinal sense.
“Medicinal marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now. There are drugs right now being developed or already in the market that (have) marijuana as a component,” he said while still mayor of Davao City.
“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 a threat of being arrested. If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die.”
Possession of marijuana for recreational use will be punishable by life imprisonment once the latest death penalty Bill is passed into law. The Bill has garnered much controversy due to its heavy handed approach to drug use. However, the version that was approved on Tuesday was a watered down one that only allows the death penalty for serious drug-related offences, exempting mere possession.
A major report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine entitled, “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids”, found that cannabis was extremely effective in treating chronic pain, especially for those suffering from multiple-sclerosis. It is also effective for treating chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.
Under Albano’s proposal, the use of medical marijuana would be allowed under strict regulations to be issued by the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.
Albano urges those in the Philippines who have their doubts about the drug to open their minds and not to be influenced by the anti-marijuana message that has been rife throughout society.
“Shed your fear of the unknown,” he urged critics, suggesting that they focus on its “potential benefits to patients.”
He also pointed out that “marijuana, even in its raw form, is not harmful, unlike tobacco and liquor”.