The Philippines has moved a step closer to legalize medical cannabis when the health committee of the House of Representatives unanimously approved the draft report on the proposed Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act on Monday.
This is a great news for Philippine patients, who have been fighting an uphill battle with the government for many years.
The bill has been drafted by Rodolfo Albano III after lengthy consultations with patients, advocates, healthcare practitioners and other experts.
“I feel high. There is high morale because finally the bill will reach plenary,” Albano was quoted saying to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The bill is still up for debate by the entire 293 members of the House, however, it is supported by many lawmakers, including members of the opposition.
The Inquirer quoted opposition politician, Tom Villarin saying “I’m a cosponsor of that bill” and another opposition member, Edcel Lagman saying “I support it, too, as long as it’s medical marijuana. In other countries marijuana is not even a prohibited drug.”
Mr Lagman is right, as Uruguay has begun selling legal adult use cannabis to their residents above 18 years of age on 19th of July this year (2017), and Canada will also do the same on 1st of July next year (2018).
Mr Albano said that studies showed the effectiveness of marijuana to control epileptic seizures, symptoms associated with HIV and AIDS as well as managing pain with multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
President Rodrigo Duterte does support the medical use of cannabis despite his trigger-happy war on drugs that unfortunately results in the death of medical cannabis patients in the Philippines.
When patients’ homes are raided or in cases when they try to avoid a police checkpoint, they often get killed, even if they only possess cannabis for personal medical use. If they manage to stay alive, they get jailed for years, even for life.
Despite the current extreme prohibition, the Philippines does have a rich cannabis history and culture and hopefully soon a functional medical cannabis bill as well.
President Duterte is often quoted saying “Medicinal marijuana – yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now … There are medicines being developed, or are now in the market, that contain marijuana…”
Whole plant medicine appears to be completely off the table, and they seem to be focusing on cannabis oil and potentially tablets or capsules for ‘edible’ options.
The bill proposes to create Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centres that are licensed by the Department of Health (DOH) and are tasked with supplying and dispensing cannabis to qualified patients or their caregivers.
This process would be administered by a pharmacist who is licensed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
The DOH would be issuing identification cards for patients who qualify and the PDEA would ‘police’ the dispensation of medical cannabis products.
A very encouraging proposal and based on the support shown so far, and the President’s support for medical use of cannabis, there is a good chance that relief is on its way for patients in need of medicinal cannabis in the Philippines.