Sen. Robin Padilla on July 22 filed a bill seeking to legalize medical marijuana or cannabis in the country, but only as a "compassionate alternative means of medical treatment."
“The State should, by way of exception, allow the use of cannabis for compassionate purposes to promote the health and well-being of citizens proven to be in dire need of such," Padilla said in Senate Bill No. 230's explanatory note.
Under the bill, medical cannabis—which are capsule- and oil-based products and not the raw plant—may be used for “debilitating medical conditions” of “qualified patients.”
SB No. 230 lists under debilitating medical conditions the following:
- multiple sclerosis,
- damage to the nervous system of the spinal cord,
- rheumatoid arthritis or similar chronic autoimmune deficiency,
- and diseases requiring hospice care.
Other conditions included are: severe nausea, sleep disorders, mood disorders, and recurring migraine headaches, as identified by the Department of Health (DOH)'s Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee.
The neophyte lawmaker's bill tasks DOH to establish the Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers in public tertiary hospitals, meant to "acquire, possess, deliver, transfer, cause the cultivation, manufacture, store, sell, supply, and dispense medical cannabis."
The DOH, under the bill, is also mandated to establish a Prescription Monitoring System, as well as an electronic database of registered medical cannabis patients and their physicians. The patients, according to Padilla, shall be issued identification cards bearing unique QR codes each.
The Food and Drug Administration will serve as the regulatory agency that tests the medical marijuana's safety and effectivity.
The Dangerous Drugs Board and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, meanwhile, will monitor how the products are cultivated, manufactured, stored, distributed, and sold.
Padilla noted that his bill will provide the "strictest regulations" to prevent abuses for casual use or profiteering.
Penalties include imprisonment of a minimum of 12 years and a maximum of 20, as well as fine of up to P10 million.
Padilla wasn't the first lawmaker to push for the legalization of medical marijuana. It has, in fact, started as early as 2014 through Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III.
But in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte became president and launched his crusade against narcotics, his so-called "war on drugs," thus hampering legislations involving such.
While the House of Representatives already approved a third and final reading for House Bill No. 6517, or the proposed “Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act" in January 2019, it was blocked in the Senate in March after Duterte expressed his disapproval. HB No. 6517 sought to provide right of access to medical marijuana and expand research into its medicinal properties.
As BusinessWorld reported that year, Duterte said during a campaign rally in Negros Oriental: “Marijuana. They are cultivated…I’ll give you the excuse to harvest for… They will say it’s medicinal. Everything is medicinal. That would be an excuse. I will not allow it. Not in my time.” Before this pronouncement, he said he will support the measure, even joking that he smoked marijuana once for recreational purposes.
In any case, Section 16 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, as pointed out by former DOH secretary Francisco Duque III, already allows medical marijuana research.
In 2020, the Senate said the Congress must not lose time and waste efforts to legislate a law legalizing medical marijuana.
Over 30 countries worldwide have approved of its use, including Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. Certain states in America have also legalized the product.
The World Health Organization previously said several scientific studies suggest that cannabis consumption helps reduce pain and nausea.
Peter Grinspoon, in his Harvard Health Publishing blog in 2020, said patients also claimed to have resumed their previous activities without feeling completely out of it and disengaged. Grinspoon also said he heard stories of medical marijuana helping lessen tremors in Parkinson's disease, and make more manageable the diseases that cause chronic pain like fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and interstitial cystitis.