Philippine senators open to legalizing medical marijuana

Senators Grace Poe and Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday, December 4, said they were open to legalizing medical marijuana in the Philippines. photo

Senators Grace Poe and Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday, December 4, said they were open to legalizing medical marijuana in the Philippines.

Poe cited cases of marijuana being used for medical purposes on patients, but also noted that it could not yet be considered a cure.

In an interview with ANC television, she said marijuana could be distributed through hospitals, but its use and dispensation should be under a doctor’s supervision so that “not just anyone can get it.”

She added that if a doctor had an allotment and gives prescriptions to, say, 100 people per month, there would be a record of the recipients.

“That is a way to prevent a doctor from selling on the side,” Poe said.

However, she also talked about how marijuana could be abused if it were legalized.

“If you have marijuana, that’s so accessible, people will just stay perhaps at home and then bench out,” she said.

Lacson, who supports the medical — not recreational — uses of marijuana, echoed Poe’s sentiment.

“Yes, the intention may be good, for medical use, but it may lead to [the] proliferation of marijuana for recreational use. That would defeat the purpose,” he said.

He urged Congress to find ways to prevent abuse.

A bill that would establish community-based programs in dealing with drug problems that included a provision allowing medical use of marijuana was previously filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros.

Tacit support for bill

Poe and Lacson spoke about medical marijuana a day after President Rodrigo Duterte said he uses marijuana to stay awake and keep up with the tight schedules — only to withdraw the statement later, saying it was a joke.

However, his statement, whether a joke or not, could open the view of approaching the country’s drug problem from a health perspective and it could be interpreted as a tacit support for a bill to legalize the medical use of cannabis, according to two opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

House Bill No. 6157, or the proposed Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, which was authored by Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman among others, had been archived after Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, one of its principal sponsors, was ousted as Speaker in July.

“It might be retrieved from the archive because the statement of the president that he has taken marijuana is an endorsement of the medical marijuana bill,” Lagman told reporters on Tuesday.

“But if we are serious about fighting illegal drugs, we should not be joking about taking marijuana,” he added.

Marijuana, which contains both mind-altering, or psychoactive, compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol and other compounds like cannabidiol, can be consumed for medicinal purposes to relieve pains, such as the chronic pain that affects people with cancer, nausea and other symptoms of various ailments.

It has also been approved as a treatment for two rare and severe forms of epilepsy by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Countries that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana for medical purposes under various systems of regulations include Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. 

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