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Lawmakers still wary of legalizing marijuana

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers remained wary of legalizing cannabis use in the country even after the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) downgraded the classification of marijuana.

Several senators and congressmen were skeptical that the CND’s decision to reclassify marijuana from Schedule IV (most dangerous) to Schedule I (least dangerous) would have an impact on the country’s narcotics laws.

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Senate President Vicente Sotto III quickly shot down notions that the UN action would result in changes in Philippine laws, particularly the legalization of marijuana use.

“Firstly, it was a 27-25 vote and only to move it from Schedule IV to Schedule I. That’s not decriminalizing,” Sotto said.

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On the contrary, the CND’s move indicated that while marijuana may be less dangerous than morphine, heroin and cocaine (Schedule IV), it still remained in the schedule of dangerous drugs.

“It only means there could be medical derivatives, like opium, but still risky,” he said, referring to ongoing research on cannabidiol—a nonintoxicating compound—which increased its role in wellness therapies in recent years, and sparked a billion-dollar industry.

The House of Representatives approved earlier this year a bill allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but the bill has yet to be tackled in the Senate.

Sen. Joel Villanueva said that while he was open to discussions on medical marijuana, he still harbors doubts.

“Our reservation stems primarily on the capacity of our government agencies to regulate its use,” Villanueva said. “Just like any other drug, it can be subjected to abuse.”

Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, vice chair of the House dangerous drugs committee, warned that criminals may be given a “legal cover for drug pushing” if marijuana production is allowed.

Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, on the other hand, welcomed the reclassification of marijuana but stressed that it “must only be used for medical purposes.”

—With a report from Patricia Denise M. Chiu

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TAGS: legalizing marijuana, UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs
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