THREE SENATORS on Wednesday expressed support to the proposed legalization of medical marijuana use in the Philippines, citing therapeutic benefits and potential economic gains for growers and the government.
During the Finance hearing on the budget of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), Senator Robinhood Ferdinand “Robin” C. Padilla, who earlier filed a bill seeking to legalize medical cannabis, questioned the stance of said agencies to his proposal.
He cited that the United Nations Commission has voted to remove cannabis from a list that categorized it as one of the most dangerous drugs, recognizing the plant as having medicinal value.
DDB Secretary Catalino S. Cuy, in response, said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, which the Philippines is part of, found that although it could be used for medical purposes, risks remain.
For this reason, their position is to defer to the recommendations of the Department of Health and the Philippine Medical Association.
“But at present, medical use, experiment and procedure are allowed, especially what we call compassionate use,” Mr. Cuy said, “but we support further medical research for possible medical use of marijuana.”
Mr. Padilla said while there are government procedures currently allowing for compassionate use, it was too costly.
“Let us not be selfish towards the poor when there are benefits that can be given by medical cannabis,” the senator said in Filipino. “This is medical, this is not about recreation, we are not encouraging that.”
Senator Ronald M. Dela Rosa, who chaired the subcommittee, said a recent conversation with the head of the police regional office in the Cordillera Administrative Region was an “eye-opener” for him on the extent of marijuana production in the mountain area.
“If we are able to exploit this economically, if for example the medical marijuana becomes legal in the country, this will become a big source of income for the people in Cordillera as it naturally grows in their mountains,” Mr. Dela Rosa said.
The government will also be able to collect taxes from marijuana sales.
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go, who chairs the Senate Health and Demography Committee, also supported the proposal but cautioned that strong regulatory measures should be in place to avoid abuse and criminal activities.
The committee endorsed the agency’s P447.41 million proposed budget for 2023 to the Senate plenary. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan