PDEA: no objection to medical marijuana bill, but safeguards needed

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Marijuana plant, file photo (Reuters)

MANILA – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said Saturday it poses no objection to the proposed bill allowing the compassionate use of marijuana for medical purposes, provided that applicable safeguards under the law are followed.

PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino bared the agency’s stand following approval by the Committee on Health of the House of Representatives of House Bill No. 180, or “An Act Providing Compassionate and Right of Access to Medical Cannabis and Expanding Research Into Its Medicinal Properties.” The bill was authored by Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III.

“PDEA supports the intention and purpose behind the proposed bill. 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,” Aquino said.

However, Aquino said PDEA has specific recommendations to help improve the bill.

• PDEA proposed these definitions of the terms Marijuana and Cannabis:

Marijuana is a term used to describe all plant parts of Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis sativa forma indica, and Cannabis ruderalis, namely, leaves, fruiting tops, stems, flowers, and roots.

Cannabis, also known as marijuana among several other names, is a preparation of the cannabis plant (scientific name: Cannabis Sativa) intended for use as psychoactive drug or medicine.

• In view of the foregoing definitions, PDEA recommended that the proposed bill be very specific and only legalize the use of tablet or capsule preparations of the alleged medicinal component of Cannabis and not cannabis per se;

•In Section 6 of the bill, PDEA proposed to amend paragraph b to read as: proof of bonafide relationship with the patient. The Agency believes that in order for a physician to be competent to certify a patient’s medical need to use cannabis, he/she must show proof that he/she has a bonafide relationship with the patient; and

• In Section 26 of the bill, it is more prudent, PDEA said, to include a statement that “cultivation, possession, use, sale, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of cannabis not in accordance with the provisions of the Act shall be deemed a violation of Republic Act 9165, Otherwise Known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

According to Aquino, “PDEA is inclined towards the passing of House Bill No. 180 and eventually its enactment into law. However, control measures and regulations on the medical use of cannabis are highly needed to ensure the patient’s safety and prevent its use for recreational purposes.”

Nontheless, PDEA said that “as of the moment, the fact remains that under existing Philippine laws, marijuana is a dangerous drug whose cultivation, sale and use are strictly prohibited. PDEA will continue to enforce the law and enjoin the public to abide by the law,” the PDEA chief said.