Duque supports medical marijuana use for research purposes

Mara Cepeda
Duque supports medical marijuana use for research purposes
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III says the Comprehensive Drugs Act allows medical labs to cultivate marijuana for 'medical experiences and research purposes'

MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he approves of the use of medical marijuana for research purposes only. 

The new Department of Health (DOH) chief was asked for his stand on the House bill would legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis. The said measure was approved by the House health committee in September. (READ: What’s in the House bill that would legalize medical marijuana?)

“[I am for it] only for research purposes and not for any other uses,” said Duque in his first press conference as part of the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, November 7. 

Duque made the clarification 6 days after he told reporters he sees no problem in the “compassionate use” of medical marijuana, saying research has shown cannabis oil can be proven effective against seizures.

“It is supposed to be for compassionate use. So there must be very narrow applicability and must be strictly regulated,” said Duque in an Inquirer report. 

On Tuesday, the DOH secretary clarified using medical marijuana for research purposes is already allowed by the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002

The law classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug, but Section 16 allows medical laboratories and medical research centers to cultivate marijuana, opium poppy as well as similar plants and materials “for medical experiences and research purposes.” 

The Dangerous Drugs Board, however, must prescribe the implementing guidelines for the proper cultivation, culture, handling, experimentation and disposal of these plants and materials. 

Philippine medical groups already expressed their opposition against the pending House bill on medical marijuana in October.  

‘Risks outweigh benefits’

Duque acknowledged previous studies saying the synthetic forms of medical cannabis have benefits, but he believes it is still too risky to use.

He said the synthetic form of medical marijuana is “symptomatic” and may help relieve pain and anorexia, among others. 

“There are synthetic forms of medical cannabis. The research setting under which I have said the compassionate use may be allowed [are for] these two events: One, research and then the other one its medical benefits for patients who are unresponsive to the traditional modalities of treatment,” said Duque. 

“But the potential benefits are not without potential risks. So far, the risks outweigh the benefits,” he added.

Should the country’s laws eventually allow the use of medical marijuana, Duque said it should be in its pharmaceutical form.

Mahirap kasi pagka in its raw form, uncontrolled, subject to abuse, addiction, and that is where, I believe, the risks more profound. Siyempre, anong gagawin mo? Hihithitin mo, ‘di ba, magbago ang perception mo, madisgrasya ka, magkaroon ng ibang complications,” said Duque. 

(It’s hard to use it in its raw form, where it is uncontrolled, subject to abuse, addiction, and that is where, I believe the risks are more profund. What will you do with it? You’ll smoke it, your perception will change, you’ll get into an accident, there will be other complications.) – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.