It is not surprising that there is cannabis in the Philippines, the country is a humid tropical, sovereign island country located in the Southeast part of Asia situated on the western side of the Pacific Ocean. It boasts a climate perfect for growing cannabis and is widely available on most of its islands… but yet it is, and has always been an illegal substance.
This country has fought many battles for its own independence against foreign conquerors, who sought out its rich natural resources and its tactical military positioning in the globe. Its history is filled with foreign influences stemming from the Chinese, Americans and Spaniards, who had colonized and shaped the country to what its culture is today.
Which is why in this article we need to explore how it is that cannabis came to this country and when or who banned it. We will also look at what is the future for cannabis in the Philippines.
History of Cannabis in the Philippines
It is not clear as to which foreign entity introduced cannabis to the Philippines. There were several influences over time all of which dealt with hemp and cannabis one way or another.
We also don’t know if cannabis was used for food, shelter, clothing and medicine by Philippine ancestors known as the Negritos and the Aeta, during their time. Unlike other countries that use cannabis hemp in making native ancestral clothes and garments, the Philippines and its people utilized Manila hemp or Abaca. Abaca is a textile that was produced using a species of banana leaves native to the Philippine Islands.
But what we do know is the following historical findings which may help us understand how it came to the country…
We can start to trace back its history as far as 2000 BCE, where India during this time, was already cultivating Cannabis for food, oil, fiber and medicine. Although India was not one of the Philippines colonizers, a recent discovery of the Laguna Copperplate inscription, says that the Hindu had made contact with the Philippines and its people in 900 AD.
Cannabis in India was mentioned as early as 2000 BCE in the Hindu text Atharvaveda, as “Sacred Grass”, one of the five sacred plants in India and was used as medicine. This posts a huge possibility that the Hindus who visited the Philippines, may have introduced cannabis in the country. But there is no concrete data to prove such a claim.
Europe, during the time of the famous 1521 Spanish colonization of the Philippines, have had its fair share of the trade and use of Cannabis in its country. The oldest monograph of Hashish was actually found in Spain during the 13th century, it provided a description of the psychoactive properties of cannabis.
The Spanish colonization over the Philippines is the most popular of all its foreign invasions because the Spaniards had reigned over the Philippines for over 300 years. This then was cut short with the help of the foreign American allies.
The Chinese also utilized cannabis for oil, food, and medicine, dating as far back as 1500 BCE. Chinese traders in the Philippines, who were hiding in the country from their enemies in the brink of war, introduced opium to the Philippines. It is also likely that they introduced cannabis to the Philippines since its use was prominent in their country.
Different Strains of Cannabis Found in the Philippines
Cannabis in the Philippines is called by different names, Ganja, Juts, Baguio Gold, Ubec and Sagada, to name a few. Usually, names are dubbed specifically within the different islands all across the Philippines where it is grown.
The cannabis has always been Sativa dominant and is grown naturally in mountainous areas in different provinces across many islands. Seldom can you find strains that are Indica and high-grade cannabis which is grown indoors, hydroponically.
A few top strains circulate the cannabis market in the Philippines, usually award winning strains, that may have been grown locally or imported from other countries.
Examples of these strains are:
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Blue Dream
- Purple Kush
- Cali OG
- Cali Mist
Although circulation of high-grade and top quality bud can be bought through a reliable source within some islands, the most common locally grown cannabis is what most people tend to have. These plants are grown naturally and usually give you the same effect but have different tastes depending on which island you get it from. Examples of cannabis from different islands are as follows:
Cannabis in Manila is usually golden and is said to have come from the mountainous areas of Baguio. That is why the majority of Filipinos call this specific strain as Baguio Gold. It is musky and strong and usually smoked as a spliff with tobacco.
The island of Cebu is said to have the freshest bud you can smoke in the county. This is due to the mountain area being so close to the city so you can easily get the freshest cannabis given that you have a reliable source. It has a citrus aroma, that usually smells like mangoes when really fresh. Its taste is bittersweet and can get you the buzz you need almost instantly in the first hit (although it may vary depending on your tolerance).
Cannabis in Sagada reaps out huge buds because of the cold climate in the province. Although the buzz you get from it is the same as that of Cebu’s and Manila’s, it is almost tasteless and easy to smoke. Sagada is also known for the hashish which some local farmers in the province produce. This hashish involves burying burnt cannabis into the ground and is also locally known as Charas.
Current Situation and Attitude Towards Cannabis in the Philippines
The acceptance of the use of cannabis in the Philippines is unlike that of the west and other countries that recognize the positive and potential use of cannabis for food, shelter, clothing and medicine.
The Philippines’ outlook on cannabis is that it is still a schedule-1 drug and an illegal substance which is harmful to the body. If one is caught with the possession of cannabis, it could lead to jail time or in serious consequences like the death penalty, which is currently suspended under the Philippines’ recent laws .
In observance of the views towards cannabis in the country, a lot of organizations have stepped up to bring out a change in the Philippine government’s outlook towards medical cannabis.
One of the leading groups in this movement is the “Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society”. They aim to promote the medical use of cannabis for seizure patients and to protect those who seek the use of medical cannabis as an alternative to conventional medicines. The group had lobbied for a bill, entitled House Bill No. 04477, which aims to provide the use of medical cannabis to seizure patients.
The bill was disapproved by a group of doctors who fear the potential abuse of the drug if the bill was to pass. They added, that the use of medical cannabis lacked further research in its effectiveness and safety, and is still undergoing clinical trials.
Despite the rigorous research of foreign countries towards cannabis and its numerous medicinal applications, the Philippine Senate rejected the bill, stating that the law is not necessary for the country.
The decision of the house came about by comparing statistics made by Denver, Colorado ( the first state to legalize cannabis in a recreational standpoint in the U.S.). They said, although the crime rate in Colorado has dropped, trips to the emergency room have increased due to the accidental ingestion of cannabis in food and other edibles. Furthermore, the house is looking into a wider scope as to how the drug can be regulated and policed in the country if it was to pass.
Ray of Hope
With the recent presidential elections in conclusion and in light of a president who supports the medical use of cannabis, advocates and patients are hoping for the possibility of passing another bill which will legalize the medical use of cannabis in the Philippines.
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, in an interview, stated that although he supports the medical use of cannabis, he disapproves the recreational use of it. He verbalized that he is a witness to the destructive capabilities of the drug when abused, stating an experience with a colleague he had in the past.