SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The country is a step closer to having access to medical cannabis as the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 6517 or the proposed “Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act” which seeks to provide compassionate and right of access to medical cannabis and expand research into its medicinal properties.
The bill, principally authored by Rep. Rodolfo Albano III (1st District, Isabela) was voted 163-5 with three abstentions. Other authors of the bill include former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The bill seeks to legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis which has been confirmed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses to patients with debilitating diseases.
The bill declares that the State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development. In accordance with Section 2 of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, as amended, the State shall further achieve balance in the national drug control program for patients with debilitating medical condition so that they may receive adequate treatment and appropriate medications from the regulated use of dangerous drugs.
This will complement conventional health care and shall be the medicine of last resort as certified by registered qualified medical cannabis physicians to patients if and when standard medical treatment options are deemed ineffective based on the indications and criteria determined by the Department of Health (DOH), in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The bill mandates the DOH to be the principal regulatory agency in the access and use of medical cannabis, in coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as the monitoring and regulatory body in the dispensation of medical cannabis.
Likewise, the measure seeks the establishment of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee (MCAC) within the DOH, which shall assist and provide directions in the formulation, implementation, and assessment of the policies, guidelines, and regulations covered under the proposed Act.
The MCAC shall be chaired by the incumbent Secretary of the DOH. Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), as well as the Directors-General of the FDA and the PDEA or their respective representatives shall be permanent members of the Committee.
The bill directs the DOH Secretary to appoint the other members of the MCAC, which shall be comprised of three health care practitioners, two experts in the regulation of controlled substances for medical use, and two representatives from a nationally recognized organization of patients with debilitating medical conditions.
There shall be a Medical Cannabis Compassionate Center (MCCC), a body duly registered and licensed by the DOH and the PDEA to acquire, possess, transport, cultivate, manufacture, store, import, and supply medical cannabis. With this, medical cannabis shall only be accessed through an MCCC, which shall ensure its appropriation dispensation.
Both the DOH and the PDEA shall have access to MCCC’s records and premises whenever work is being undertaken. They shall be authorized to question employees, investigate any matter if necessary, and determine violations.
The DDB, in coordination with other government agencies, shall formulate the guidelines regarding the cultivation, importation, production, and distribution of the drug.
However, prior to its distribution, the FDA shall test all medical cannabis to determine its potency, consistency, and effective use. The agency shall also ensure that they are organic pesticide-free, gluten-free, and safe for use.
The bill prohibits qualified patients to possess or smoke cannabis and to utilize it for purposes other than for treatment of debilitating diseases. Moreover, patients who are under the influence of cannabis shall be forbidden from operating or navigating any vehicle and undertaking tasks that would require the use of body or motor functions impaired by its use.
Upon conviction and final judgment, violators of the bill or its implementing rules and regulations, including medical cannabis patient caregivers and MCCCs, shall be penalized with a fine of P500,000 to P10 million at the discretion of the Court.
The penalty carries with it the suspension or revocation of the professional license or registration of the persons held as offenders. In addition, a penalty of life imprisonment shall be imposed on particular violations provided for in the measure.
The bill stipulates that the DOH shall authorize the University of the Philippines National Institute of Health, the Health Sciences Center of the UP System, and the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care to conduct research on the medical use of cannabis.
The DOH shall submit an annual report to the Office of the President and to both Houses of Congress which shall include basic information on the use of cannabis in the country.
A Joint Congressional Oversight Committee shall be created to conduct a regular review of the implementation. It shall be composed of five members from the House of Representatives and five members from the Senate, who will be appointed by the House Speaker and the Senate President, respectively. | Molie Gonzales