SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The proposal to legalize the regulated use of marijuana for medicinal purposes as embodied in House Bill 4477 filed by Rep. Rodolfo Albano III last month has started to gain support from lawmakers with six House members now co-authoring the measure.
The co-authors of HB 4477 or the proposed "Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act" are House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora (Lone District, San Juan City), Reps. Emi Calixto-Rubiano (Lone District, Pasay City), Roy Seņeres (Party-list, OFW), Regina Reyes (Lone District, Marinduque), Elisa Olga Kho (2nd District, Masbate) and Henry Oaminal (2nd District, Misamis Occidental).
The lawmakers' co-authorship of the bill was done before Congress adjourned sine die last week.
The bill provides it is the policy of the State to provide measures to achieve a balance in the national drug control program so that patients with debilitating medical condition may receive adequate amount of treatment and appropriate medications from the regulated use of dangerous drugs.
Toward this end, the bill provides the State shall 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.
The measures provides for the establishment under the Department of Health (DOH), of a Medical Cannabis Regulatory Authority, which shall regulate the medical use of cannabis in the country. It shall be headed by a Director-General who shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines from the list of specialist physicians recommended by the Secretary of Health.
The Medical Cannabis Regulatory Authority shall issue registered identification (ID) cards to qualified patients after a careful review of the documents required by the Authority and included in the implementing rules and regulations of this Act.
An entity shall operate as a Medical Cannabis Compassionate Center (MCCC) after approval of its application and registration with the Medical Cannabis Regulatory Authority. A MCCC shall guarantee the appropriate dispensation of cannabis and shall not release more than the prescribed dosage for one month to a registered qualified patient or designated caregiver, the bill provides.
Albano said he recorded use of cannabis as medicine goes back to about 2,500-10,000 years ago in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine.
"Modern research has confirmed the beneficial uses of cannabis in treating and alleviating the pain, nausea and other symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating medical conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV-AIDS as found by the National Institute of Medicine of the US in March, 1999," he said.
Albano further said cannabis has many currently accepted medical uses in the US, having been recommended by thousands of licensed physicians and more than 500,000 patients in 21 states with medical marijuana laws. Like the 20 states and the District of Columbia in the United States, Israel, Canada, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic have enacted medical cannabis laws that remove criminal sanctions for the medical use of cannabis, define eligibility for such use, and allow some means of access, in most cases, through a dispensary.
Other states in the European Union, such as Finland, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg, in recognition of the medical value of cannabis, have developed various forms of de facto decriminalization, whereby possession and use of cannabis, rarely lead to criminal prosecution according to Albano.
In the Philippines, he said the "Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002" recognized the medical use of drugs classified as dangerous drugs including marijuana when it said in Section 2: "The government shall, however aim to achieve a balance in the national drug control program so that people with legitimate medical needs are not prevented from being treated with adequate amounts of appropriate medications, which include the use of dangerous drugs." It went further in Section 16 when it provided that "...in the case of medical laboratories and medical research centers which cultivate or culture marijuana, opium poppy and other plants, or materials of such dangerous drugs for medical experiments and research purposes or the creation of new types of medicine, the Board shall prescribe the necessary implementing guidelines for the proper cultivation, culture, handling, experimentation and disposal of such plants and materials."