Medical marijuana bill hurdles House health panel, up for debates in plenary

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Marijuana plant
Stock image of a marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa). Reuters photograph.

MANILA, Philippines – In what its main proponent said was a new high for the House of Representatives, the Committee on Health approved a controversial bill seeking to legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis (marijuana).
House Bill No. 180 or the proposed Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act will next go to plenary for debates.

“I’m elated now that it passed the committee level. It’s the first time it has advanced this far,” Isabela Representative Rodito Albano said.

Albano also authored the bill in the 16th Congress, but it remained at the committee level.

“At least now, it will be taken up at the floor; the Speaker wants it and the President wants it passed too, but for medicinal purposes,” he said in a phone interview.

Albano believes the bill will have the support of at least 90 percent of the House members.

“It’s the understanding of the bill that’s important, they need to understand the salient features,” he added.

The bill seeks to “legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis, which has been confirmed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses to treat chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those associated with multiple sclerosis.

It proposes the establishment of Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers (MCCC) licensed by the Department of Health (DOH) and based in DOH-retained hospitals, specialty hospitals and private tertiary hospitals which can sell, supply and dispense cannabis to qualified patients or caregivers through a pharmacist with an S3 license issued by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

It also provides for the creation of Medical Cannabis Research and Safety Compliance Facilities licensed by the DOH to conduct scientific and medical research on the medical use of cannabis and provides testing services for its potency and contaminants.

Qualified medical patients will be issued identification cards by the DOH after they are certified by physicians with whom they have a bona fide relationship as having debilitating medical condition and should receive therapeutic or palliative benefits from the medical use of cannabis.

A qualifying patient is prohibited from possessing and smoking cannabis and engaging in its medical use in any mode of public transportation or in any public place; driving while under the influence of cannabis; and, using it for purposes other than treatment of a debilitating medical condition.