What’s in the House bill that would legalize medical marijuana?

Bea Cupin
What’s in the House bill that would legalize medical marijuana?
The bill on medical cannabis has a long way to go before becoming law

MANILA, Philippines – A bill that would legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis hurdled the House committee on health more than a year after it was first filed at the House of Representatives.

The House panel, chaired by Quezon 4th District Representative Angelina Tan, approved the draft committee report for a bill to substitute House Bill Number 180 titled, “An Act Providing compassionate and right of access to medical cannabis and expanding research into its medicinal properties.”

The bill, authored by Isabela 1st District Representative Rodolfo Albano III, will create “medical cannabis compassionate centers (MCCC),” or entities “registered with the Department of Health (DOH) and licensed to acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, sell, supply, and dispense cannabis, devises or related supplies and education materials to registered qualifying patients.”

It will also create “medical cannabis safety compliance facilities (MCSCF)” which are entities “registered with the DOH that conduct scientific and medical research on medical use of cannabis and provide testing services for its potency and contaminants relative to its safe and efficient use, cultivation, harvesting, packaging, labelling, distribution and proper security.”

An MCCC or MCSCF cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school, college, or university.

This isn’t Albano’s first try at pushing for a bill that would allow medical cannabis in the Philippines. During the 16th Congress, he filed HB No. 4477, which was referred to the committee on health. (READ: PH doctors say no to medical marijuana bill)

The current version of the measure has a long way to go. 

Once the committee report is finalized, it will be deliberated on before plenary for second reading. If it passes a series of hurdles – debates, the period of amendments, among others – it will be voted upon by the House. If it passes that, House members then vote on whether or not it passes 3rd and final reading.

A counterpart measure must then go through the same process before the Senate. If it gets past the wringer, it goes through a bicameral conference committee, where representatives from both chambers reconcile any differences in their respective versions.

It then has to get the approval of both houses before it is finally forwarded to the President. The President can choose to sign the bill into law or veto it.

President Rodrigo Duterte, despite his staunch anti-drug stance, has expressed openness to legalizing the medical use of marijuana, the more common term for cannabis.

“Cannabis and Cannabis resin and extracts and tinctures of cannabis” are considered dangerous drugs in the Philippines, according to Republic Act 9165.

The following are key definitions in the bill filed by Albano. Note that there may be some changes made in the draft committee report, a copy of which has yet to be released to media:

  • Cannabis refers to every kind, class, genus, specie of the plant Cannabis sativa L., Cannabis americana, hashish, bhang, guaza, churrus, ganjab and embraces every kind, class and character of marijuana, whether dried or fresh and flowering, flowering or fruiting tops, or any part or portion of the plant and seeds thereof, and all its geographic varieties, whether as a reefer, resin, extract, tincture or in any form whatsoever; 
  • Debilitating medical conditions means one or more of the following: 
    • Cancer
    • Glaucoma
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
    • Epilepsy
    • Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome
    • Admitted to hospice care
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder
    • Rheumatoid arthritis or similar chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorders
    • or any other debilitating medical condition or its treatment that is added by the Department of Health as recommended by a panel of doctors constituted for this purpose 
  • Medical use refers to delivery, possession, transfer, transportation, or use of cannabis and its devices to treat or alleviate a registered qualified patient’s medical condition or symptoms associated with the patient’s debilitating disease or its acquisition, administration, cultivation, or manufacturing for medical purposes 
  • Qualified medical cannabis physician refers to a physician who has a doctor’s degree in medicine, a bona fide relationship with the patient, a license to prescribe drugs, and a professional knowledge of the use of medical marijuana 
  • Qualified medical cannabis patient refers to a person who has been diagnosed by a certifying physician as having a debilitating medical condition and who, in the physician’s professional opinion would benefit from the medical use of cannabis 
  • Medical cannabis patient caregiver refers to a person who must be at least 21 years old and has no prior conviction for the use of dangerous drugs under RA 9165. The caregiver must also have written consent indicating his or her willingness to assist the qualified patient and not divert the medical cannabis for the use of anyone else.

The bill mandates the issuance of identification cards for qualified patients. If the patient is a minor or is not yet 18 years old, an identification card will not be issued until the custodial parent or legal guardian is briefed on the potential risks and benefits of the medical use of marijuana.

The list of registered patients and caregivers and other data will be kept confidential by the DOH. The bill also prohibits discrimination against patients who avail of medical cannabis, including the rights of parents to visit a minor child. Provided, however, that the use of medical cannabis does not pose “unreasonable danger” to the child.

Patients are not allowed to use medical cannabis in any public place; operate motor vehicles, aircraft, or motorboats while under the influence of cannabis; do any tasks that would require body or motor functions that may be impaired during cannabis use; or use cannabis outside of medical reasons. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.