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GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Authorities on Thursday, July 28, sounded alarm bells as they noted what they said was a growing preference for vaping cannabis among locals, and stepped up drug enforcement measures in Soccsksargen.
The warning came following the seizure of more than P1 million worth of cannabis oil and kush from a government health worker in Kidapawan City, Cotabato province, on Wednesday, July 27.
The operation came after the controversial vape bill lapsed into law on Monday, July 25, making it legal for people as young as 18 years to smoke e-cigarettes and use other vaping products.
Kat Abad, spokesperson of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the Soccsksargen Region, said authorities arrested Jude Paolo Javier, an employee of the Kidapawan City Health Office and consignee of the package that contained the contraband at the post office in Kidapawan.
Abad said authorities, consisting of agents from agents of the PDEA, the Bureau of Customs (BoC), and the police, waited for the suspect to claim the package.
She said it was a “controlled delivery operation” which means authorities allowed the contraband to be sent to the country to entrap the consignee.
After inspection, the package yielded 927 grams of marijuana kush and 21 vape cartridges containing marijuana oil. The items were valued at P1.3 million.
Abad said the package was declared to contain kitchen utensils from the United States.
Javier denied that the marijuana kush and marijuana oil belonged to him.
Abad said Javier would be charged with violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The PDEA said there was a growing demand for cannabis oil in the region.
A website that deals on cannabis, Lightshade.com, said there were some marijuana concentrates that can be vaped such as “wax,” a concentrate called “shatter,” that can give a highly sensory and indulgent vaping experience. It also mentions hash oil or cannabis oil.
Kush is a marijuana strain originally grown in India that was brought to the US in the 1970s. Over the years, marijuana growers have developed new strains with specific characteristics by crossbreeding the cannabis plants.
The new Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act lapsed into law with neither a veto nor a signature from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The law, which regulates the sale, promotion, and packaging of vaping products, and lowers the minimum age of those who may buy or use them from 21 years to 18, sparked a controversy due to its possible ramifications. It was approved by the previous Congress before the elections.
The Department of Health (DOH) has expressed concern about its serious consequences in a country, where close to 17 million adult Filipinos are tobacco users.
But the new law is seen to boost the vape market among young people.
During the school year 2020-2021, the Department of Education (DepEd) listed 1.1 million vaping students in the 18 to 20-year-old age bracket. DepEd had opposed the measure.
In 2019, around 14.1% of Filipino students aged 13-15 were using electronic cigarettes, said the Global Youth Tobacco Survey. – Rappler.com