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Sotto: Legalizing marijuana evil, disaster

Ayee Macaraig

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The former Dangerous Drugs Board head says: You don’t declare a nuclear bomb legal just because a small component of it can be used to light up your house'

'MISLEADING PROPOSAL.' Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III says proponents of legalizing marijuana are just "camouflaging" their proposal by using the term "medical marijuana" when it will just promote substance abuse. File photo from Senate website

MANILA, Philippines – “Let us stand up against the legalization of marijuana now, otherwise the evil will take root.”

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III took his campaign against legalizing marijuana to the Senate floor, delivering a privilege speech against what he called a disastrous proposal.

“Why will we legalize the use and cultivation of marijuana? The proposal to legalize marijuana is misleading. It is camouflaged under the term ‘medical marijuana.’ You don’t declare a nuclear bomb legal just because a small component of the bomb can be used to light up your house,” he said on Wednesday, February 19.

Sotto objected to the plan of Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III and the House minority to file a bill legalizing medical marijuana, which has the backing of the Philippines Moms for Marijuana. There is no Senate version of the bill.

Albano and the group said parents should be allowed to resort to medical marijuana for their children suffering from seizure disorders and other illnesses after trying ineffective medicines.

Yet Sotto, a staunch anti-illegal drugs advocate, said their proposal will encourage illegal drug use and has no scientific basis. The senator is also a former chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

“I rise to douse cold water on the move to legalize marijuana use and possession – the door-opener to more dangerous drugs such as shabu, heroin, cocaine,” said Sotto.

Sotto said the proposal sends the “wrong message.”

“If we legalize the use of marijuana, it will become a disaster. If your child is using marijuana, will you encourage him of its continued use, or will you ask him to stop from using it? Kung makakasama sa nakararami, gagawin ba nating batas para lamang sa iilan?” (If marijuana has negative effects for many, will we make it a law for a few?)

Senate health committee chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III said he is still studying the proposal. Senator JV Ejercito said during the 2013 campaign that he supports the idea. Ejercito told Rappler Wednesday he is in favor of it but for medicinal purposes only “like for epilepsy.” 


‘Prove your claims first’

Sotto said those seeking to legalize medical marijuana should first prove its effectiveness.

He cited the Dangerous Drugs Act classifying marijuana as a dangerous drug, and the United Nation’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which also classified marijuana as a dangerous drug. He said the Philippines is a signatory to the convention.

Sotto said there are many petitions asking the UN to legalize marijuana but the organization consistently rejected these because “there is no empirical data that could back up their claims.”

“I do not think that these people who are lobbying for the legalization of marijuana are much better than the powerful research machinery of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs,” he said.

In contrast, Sotto said Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, a major component of the marijuana plant, has many “negative effects.” Citing “numerous studies,” Sotto said the effects of THC include short-term memory problems, distorted perception, hallucinations and delusions, and reduced blood pressure.

Sotto also said other countries that legalized marijuana “now have doubts” and are “on the verge of a rollback.” His examples included the Netherlands, Spain, and Canada.

“In Canada, its court of appeals declared marijuana per se as illegal, while allowing the use of medical marijuana when appropriately prescribed. However, many physicians in Canada have refused to prescribe medical marijuana because, according to them, its benefits are not scientifically proven,” Sotto said.

The senator also asked why groups are pushing to legalize marijuana when only its “minor nonpsychoactive ingredient” called cannabidiol or CBD is considered to have “a wide range of therapeutic benefits” according to “some research.”

He stressed that legalizing marijuana will only promote substance abuse. 

“According to the data which we have obtained from the DDB, marijuana has consistently been the second most commonly abused substance for the past several years next to shabu. Malaking negosyo na po ito ng mga drug pusher sa ngayon, at mas magiging malaki pang negosyo kapag ito ay naisabatas at naging legal na.” (This is big business for drug pushers now and will become an even bigger business when it is legalized.)

Calls to legalize marijuana mounted after Colorado became the first state in the United States to open recreational pot stores in January.

‘Insulting remark’

For the Philippines Moms for Marijuana, lawmakers should at least review marijuana’s medicinal value in the Philippines.

The group is in talks with the DDB and Albano to petition a formal research on medical marijuana that will be done in the country. The mothers said they did their research and came across legitimate medical journals supporting their cause.

They cited a CNN documentary by neurosurgeon Dr Sanjay Gupta, who changed his mind on the effectiveness of medical marijuana.

“Sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works. Take the case of Charlotte Figi, who I met in Colorado. She started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month,” Gupta wrote for CNN.

The Philippines Moms for Marijuana criticized Sotto for a previous “insulting remark” where he said, “If their child experienced problems, it might be that you used marijuana before.” –

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