Advocates of medical marijuana want gentle message to push bills

Advocates of medicinal cannabis want gentle messaging in pushing bills

/ 02:53 PM April 04, 2024

Leaders of different groups advocating medicinal cannabis have asked their fellow supporters to pursue a single and gentle messaging strategy, to avoid spoiling a rare chance for pending proposals to be approved in Congress.


MANILA, Philippines — Leaders of different groups advocating medicinal cannabis, or medical marijuana, have asked their fellow supporters to pursue a single and gentle messaging strategy, to avoid spoiling a rare chance for pending proposals to be approved in Congress.

During the official launch of the CannAlliance PH — an alliance of pro-medicinal cannabis groups in the country — panelists were asked about the possible opposition to proposed measures seeking to allow the use of medicinal cannabis.


Over the congressional hearings, there were fears that allowing even a compassionate use for medicinal cannabis might be a gateway to recreational use of marijuana, while some lawmakers gave a lukewarm reaction to suggestions that the Philippines play an important role in marijuana farming and production.


Maria Guadalyn Reyes, chairperson of Sensible Philippines — one of the groups within CannAlliance PH — believes that advocates have to be gentle in pushing for the bills.

At the same time, Reyes said that including a lot of other topics during deliberations on the medicinal cannabis bills might only slow it down and eventually lead to its complete shelving.

“It’s already difficult to do.  To go into all these (topics) in the future is tedious already, so one step at a time.  When we push (with all these other proposals) too much, we might lose even the medicinal cannabis,” Reyes said during the program in Quezon City on Wednesday.

“We want to be gentle, that’s why we merely (ask for) toleration,” she added.

Annie Andanar, legislative officer of Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who happens to be one of the primary authors of the legislation, said that discussions must be held to ensure that efforts are consolidated.

Andanar said it is important to make the most out of a window for the bills to be tackled and approved within the 19th Congress.


“There is a window, but we do not want to promise you heaven and the stars, we cannot, there are so many imponderables in the legislature, so let us help each other, talk about this, let’s collaborate, cooperate, communicate with each other with a single voice, please,” Andanar said.

“It’s the first time that the bill will reach the plenary, it has been four Congresses since (this bill was filed), I know the legislative history.  But hopefully, with God’s grace also, we can do it this time,” she added.

Last February 7, the House of Representatives’ committee on dangerous drugs and the committee on health approved a substitute measure, which was the product of technical working group meetings and amendments during the hearing itself.

There were 10 House bills consolidated by the TWG, but the proposal was not brought to the plenary before session adjourned last March 22 for the Holy Week.

READ: House joint committee approves medical marijuana bill 

PH as a marijuana hub

While the focus within CannAlliance is to have the medicinal cannabis bills approved, Medical Cannabis Research Center founder Chuck Manansala also said that they still support calls to transform the Philippines into a major market for these products.

“But of course we support all initiatives towards creating an industry, because we believe that creating a local industry will tend to lower the cost of the medicine,” Manansala said.

Manansala previously suggested in one of the previous hearings at the House of Representatives that cultivation and exportation of medical-grade cannabis be included in the mandate of the proposed Medical Cannabis Office.

He noted that the Philippines could capitalize on producing medicinal cannabis like the Netherlands, and eventually earn huge profits from this.  However, Arroyo opposed the idea, as the proponents may be getting too far ahead of the bills being discussed — which focuses only on allowing medicinal cannabis for certain health ailments.

Arroyo also said that it’s wrong to compare the Philippines with the Netherlands because the situation is different, as a lot of illegal substances in the Philippines are regulated in the European country.

Committee on dangerous drugs chair and Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers agreed with Arroyo, saying it would be prudent to take one step at a time in discussing medicinal cannabis.

“Though it may be inviting to be able to develop an industry out of this in the future, at the moment, probably siguro we’ll take it one step at a time.  Kasi bago ito eh (because this is new),” Barbers told Manansala during the hearing.

READ: House health panel chief supports marijuana bill for certain ailments 

Gateway to recreational use?

At one point in the formal launch, Manansala joked that if marijuana use were already legal, the function hall used would be full of smoke and people would be having fun — indications of marijuana use for recreational purposes.

But during the question and answer for the media, Manansala said this was just a joke and a pipe dream of his, which he thinks he would not see in his lifetime.

“My joke a while ago was just my fantasy, and I think it will happen when I’m no longer here,” he said.

“There is no basis to the fears of our lawmakers because even if it is illegal, there are people who use marijuana for recreational purposes.  So let us leave them for a while as they debate on Republic Act No. 9165.  What we want to happen is to set aside one part of that black market, put it under control and regulation […] because what we want is for the medicine to be used,” he added.

Manansala admitted though that countries which allowed marijuana usage for health purposes went into the direction of recreational use.  However, he noted that it takes decades for medicinal cannabis regulation to turn into allowing recreational use, like in the case of California.

“With the question regarding if this will be a gateway?  The truth is, in almost all countries that allowed medical cannabis, proposals to grant recreational use would emerge.  But it does not happen quickly for all countries,” Manansala said.

“When did California start allowing the use of medical cannabis?  (It was 1996), and when was recreational approved, 1996 to 2016?  That’s quite a long time and I do not know if that would happen here in the Philippines,” he added.

But despite the anticipated lengthy discussions at the House and the Senate plenaries, Manansala still has hope that the bill will be passed within the year.

“If we would make a bet, I would bet that the bill would move through Congress this year,” Manansala said.

Medicinal cannabis advocates have found allies in some lawmakers, as even hardline anti-drug personalities like Senator Ronald dela Rosa — who implemented former president Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war — urged people to open their hearts and minds for compassionate use of medicinal marijuana.

READ: Bato dela Rosa: From hardline anti-drugs to sudden soft spot for legalizing marijuan

Last December 2022, dela Rosa said he understands the fears of government officials about possible abuse, but he appealed to them to open their hearts and minds to give the measure a try.

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The Senator’s support for medicinal cannabis came after physicians and individuals whose children suffer from epilepsy and cerebral palsy pleaded for the bill to be passed, as the current setup for purchasing such medication are not compassionate.

TAGS: bills, groups, House, marijuana, medical

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