A day after a vote to bring back the death penalty for drug offences, the House Committee on Health has endorsed legalising marijuana for medical purposes.
House Bill 180 seeks to set out the rules for any possible use of medical marijuana.
Representative Seth Jalosjos, speaking in support of the bill, said legalising medical marijuana would “benefit thousands of patients suffering from serious and debilitating diseases”.
He added: “According to the 2012 report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there were 98,200 new diagnosed cancer cases in a year in the country while 59,000 are dying of cancer annually.
“Cancer treatment in the country is prohibitively expensive — treatment ranges from 36,000-18,000 for six cycles of chemotherapy. While Philhealth helps, patients still have out of pocket expenses.”
The Bill has the backing of the Philippine Cancer Society.
However, Rep. Jalosjos stressed that: “This act should not be deemed in any manner to advocate, authorise, promote the use of cannabis or marijuana from non-medical use. It provides for control measures and regulation on the medical sue of cannabis to ensure patient safety.”
Speaking after the debate, he said he believed the president would back the bill: “I have high hopes under the Duterte administration that this measure would be enacted into law.
“President Duterte has an open mind on medical cannabis,” he said.
While the president’s tough stance on illegal drugs is well known, he has previously conceded that marijuana may possess beneficial qualities.
Speaking while still Mayor of Davao City, he said: “Medicinal marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now. There are drugs right now being developed or already in the market that have marijuana as a component.
“If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it, ever. It remains to be a prohibited item and there’s always a threat of being arrested.
“If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die.”
According to yesterday’s death penalty bill, possession of marijuana for recreational use would be punishable by life imprisonment. Growing, dealing or trading in the drug could be punished by death.
The health department, represented by Jasmine Peralta, backed the bill but added: “The benefits should outweigh the risk and harm from the potential use.
“Marijuana in herbal or plant form, which is the form used for recreational purposes, is not acceptable as medicine.
“We all know cannabis has high potential for abuse. We need to undergo extensive research or studies on the quality safety efficacy on the use of leaves or herbal form.”
The matter has now been referred to a technical working group.