MANILA, Philippines – A congressman has called for an “open, honest-to-goodness debate” on the merits of medical marijuana in the Philippines.
Isabela 1st District Representative Rodolfo Albano III admitted on Thursday, June 19, that legalizing and regulating the medical use of marijuana in the country will be “an uphill fight.”
He urged Filipinos, however, to start talking about the issue, as he rallied for support from the public, the health sector, and other lawmakers in the House of Representatives.
“We should take positive legislative action to pave the way for open, rational, and intelligent debate among those for and against the legalized use marijuana for medicinal purposes,” Albano said in a statement.
Albano filed on May 26 House Bill 4477 or the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Bill, which seeks “to provide accessible, affordable, safe medical cannabis to qualifying patients.” (READ: Bill on medical use of marijuana filed in Congress)
The bill stated that cannabis (more commonly known as marijuana) “has been confirmed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses to treat chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition” that produces one or more of the following:
- cachexia or wasting syndrome
- severe and chronic pain
- severe nausea
- seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy
- severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those associated with multiple sclerosis
The bill came after months of dialogue with advocates, many of whom are mothers whose children are suffering from debilitating diseases and who want to raise awareness about the medicinal value of marijuana. (READ: When medicines fail, marijuana is moms’ last hope)
Albano said the debate should focus primarily on the medicinal value of the substance, as he himself opposes any form of abuse in the use of marijuana such as pot sessions and other illegal purposes.
The country’s Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 actually allows the cultivation of marijuana by laboratories and research centers “for medical experiments or research purposes or for the creation of new types of medicine.”
Albano said marijuana will not be available in drug stores at all.
The new bill seeks to establish under the Department of Health a Medical Cannabis Regulatory Authority that will regulate the medical use of cannabis in the country.
The agency will issue registered identification cards to qualified patients as well as maintain a registry of cannabis patients’ caregivers who will assist registered qualified patients.
Albano also clarified the bill will not decriminalize marijuana. (READ: Sotto: Legalizing marijuana evil, disaster)
“There is a dividing line between drug abuse and medicinal value and benefit. The bill does not advocate use or smoking of marijuana for harmful and abusive purposes; and anyone caught using the substance without any authorized, legal reason will face criminal liability,” he said.
If advances in scientific research and technology debunked all “bigotry and narrow-mindedness” toward controversial health issues such as the use of birth control pills and invasive surgical procedures, Albano is hopeful the same could happen for medical marijuana in the Philippines.
“It will be the height of bigotry to simply throw out any move to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes in the light of so many inorganic prescription drugs like sleeping pills and other neuro-psychotic drugs available in the market,” he said.
“These regulated inorganic prescription drugs are being peddled in the market by illegal drug traffickers which have become a part of the global drug scourge.”
Albano noted at least 20 states in the United States, as well as countries like Israel, Canada, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic already allow the use of medical marijuana. – Rappler.com
Medical Marijuana image from Shutterstock