While legalising medical cannabis is a step closer in the Philippines and it appears it also has the conditional support of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), a major challenge awaits.
Last week, the nation’s House Committee on Health approved the draft committee report on the substitute bill to House Bill No. 180, which is concerned with providing compassionate and right of access to medical cannabis, plus expanding research into its medicinal properties.
Just a few days ago, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino signaled his department’s support for the Bill, with some conditions.
Among those, the PDEA wants to see definition of the terms marijuana and cannabis in the Bill and for it to be very specific regarding methods of administration – PDEA only wants tablet and capsule based medications legalised.
It also wants to see a proven doctor/patient relationship before prescription of medicines and more explicit wording explaining that activities outside of the legislation are an offence under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
“The Agency recognizes the need of patients to have access to safe, affordable, available medical cannabis prescribed by registered physicians in cases where cannabis has been found to be effective in the prevention, treatment and management of chronic or debilitating health conditions,” Director General Aquino said.
The details of House Bill No. 180 can be viewed here (PDF). Architect of the Bill is Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III.
“In the Philippines, thousands of patients suffering from serious and debilitating disease will benefit from legalizing the medical use of cannabis,” states Mr. Albano in HB180. Roughly 98,200 newly diagnosed cancer cases occur in the country each year, with 59,000 dying from cancer annually
While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is well-known for his hardliner stance on drugs, he isn’t against medical cannabis. When asked last year about his thoughts on legalizing marijuana, he stated:
“Medical marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now.”
With regard to recreational marijuana, he said, “I will not allow it ever”.
House Bill No. 180 passing the Senate is by no means a done deal – in fact, its chances appear slim.
“There is no hope for such bill here … It’s dead in the water,” said Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.