Cordillera leaders buck commercial farming of weed
BAGUIO CITY — Once the government softens its stance and allows the legal medical use of marijuana, the weed should be grown in state-sponsored instead of commercial farms, according to members of the Cordillera Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC).
One of them, Benguet Gov. Crescencio Pacalso, has said his province would benefit from a medical marijuana law because it had the right climate to grow the weed.
Pacalso added, however, that marijuana should be grown in designated farms that would not compete with Benguet’s salad vegetable areas.
Interest in the use of marijuana as a medicine was rekindled by Miss Universe Catriona Gray of the Philippines, who said during Monday’s pageant that she supported its medical, not recreational, use.
In Manila, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte had long favored the legalization of marijuana for “healing purposes.”
“Since the President already made a statement that he’s in favor of limited use of marijuana … logically, then he will support … and sign any bill that would be consistent with his stand,” Panelo told reporters.
The law defines marijuana, or cannabis, as a psychoactive drug. There are measures pending in Congress that would allow medication made from marijuana extracts or oils.
Police and soldiers routinely destroy marijuana farms at the boundaries of the provinces of Ilocos Sur, La Union, Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province and Kalinga.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has been monitoring several northern towns known for their marijuana “plantations,” such as Tinglayan in Kalinga, Bakun and Kibungan in Benguet, Sadanga in Mountain Province, and Tinoc in Ifugao.
Two doctors who attended a recent joint session of the RPOC and the Regional Development Council (RDC) said cannabis had pain-relieving properties.
“It is a form of alternative medicine,” said Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, Cordillera director of the Department of Health (DOH).
She said the DOH still had to issue a policy statement about marijuana use.
Focus on abuse
Government doctors have offered to conduct studies on the medical potentials of cannabis decades ago “but this was never given priority because the focus had been on how it was abused,” Pangilinan said.
“We believe that the use of the [marijuana] extract will be useful for terminal cases,” she said.
Dr. Julie Cabato agreed.
“I had a patient who had cancer, but her pain could not be relieved even by morphine. Then I found out somebody gave her marijuana and it helped her. She was dying but her pain was [eased],” she said.
“It can be [useful] as long as it is regulated,” Cabato said.
The RPOC and RDC also have not come up with a position endorsing marijuana, pending consultations with experts.
But in case marijuana is tapped for its medicinal properties, the government should never allow its production by the private sector, said Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan, RDC chair.
He said the problems plaguing law enforcement agencies in shutting down marijuana plantations in the Cordillera region showed the difficulties that they would face in regulating legal weed farms in the future, unless these were operated exclusively by the government.
Pacalso on Wednesday said law enforcers could identify the current operators of plantations through the tax declarations for lands where marijuana was being grown.
Some landowners, however, insist their properties were used to grow marijuana without their consent, according to Edgar Apalla, PDEA Cordillera director. —With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
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