Medical cannabis law hopefully may pass this year - advocates
Coalition has ‘no doubt’ Marcos will sign it

Advocates hopeful law on medical cannabis to be passed this year

By: - Reporter / @dexcabalzaINQ
/ 05:38 AM April 05, 2024

Advocates hopeful law on medical cannabis to be passed this year

MOVING AS ONE Convenors of CannAlliance PH forge a covenant consolidating advocacy efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the country. From left: Lea Fullon of Haraya Policy Center, lawyer Henrie Enaje of MedCann Party, Guadalyn Reyes of Sensible Philippines, Dr. GemMutia of Philippine Society of Cannabinoid Medicine, Lui Quiambao Manansala of Seniors for Medcan Philippines and Chuck Manansala of Masikhay Research Inc. —OLIVER TEVES

After a decade of lobbying, advocates are optimistic that a law will be passed as early as this year that will legalize the medical use of cannabis, more commonly known as marijuana, after gaining support from both chambers of Congress.

“Since 2014, this is the farthest that a bill on medical cannabis has reached in the Senate. This will be our highest chance that a law on medical cannabis will finally be passed,” said Chuck Manansala, chair of the newly formed CannAlliance PH.


“There may be hindrances along the way, but I will be betting on this chance that law will be passed this year,” he added.


READ: Germany gives controversial green light to cannabis

Once passed by Congress, Manansala said “there is no doubt” that President Marcos would support the consolidated bill and sign it into law.

Dispelling mythsSix medical cannabis advocacy groups signed a covenant on Wednesday to formalize the establishment of CannAlliance PH, an umbrella organization that would push for the legalization of medical cannabis in the country.

The alliance is composed of Masikhay Research Inc., Seniors for MedCan Philippines, Philippine Society of Cannabinoid Medicine, Sensible Philippines, MedCann Party and Haraya Policy Center.

It aims to provide patients with legal access to affordable, safe and available medical cannabis.

The alliance pledges, among others, to “educate the public about the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis, dispel myths and misconceptions, and empower Filipinos to make informed decisions about their health.” It also wants to make the country “an internationally recognized center of cannabis research.”


READ: Are we missing the opportunity to legalize marijuana?

“It’s high time that we join the ranks of progressive nations that have embraced medical cannabis as a legitimate and effective treatment option. And now, with CannAlliance PH, we can speak with an amplified voice and reach more people, particularly our lawmakers, as we step up our efforts in pushing for legalization,” Manansala said.

“We are inching closer and closer, so we all need to work together as we make one big push,” he added. “We now have doctors, patients, lawyers, subject matter experts and grassroot organizers, and we welcome other interest groups who share our vision of a future where medical cannabis is not villainized but represents hope and healing.”

Bills advancing

Advocates are optimistic that their efforts in the last decade are paying off.

Two bills—an unnumbered substitute bill in the House of Representatives (a consolidation of 10 House bills) and Senate Bill No. 2573 authored by Sen. Robin Padilla—are gaining traction as they hurdled the committee level in February and March, respectively, and are due for second reading in the plenary.

As in past Congresses, the bill pending before the House was assured of being approved in the third and final reading as it was backed by Speaker Martin Romualdez and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, among other lawmakers, according to Arroyo’s legislative officer and medical cannabis supporter Annie Andanar. The substitute bill, however, needed tweaking in its appropriations provision to expedite its passage in the House.

Gaining support from the Senate, which was historically unsupportive of any compassionate cannabis legislation, would be more challenging. Padilla’s SB 2573 gained the support of 12 other senators, but seven of them expressed reservations or would interpellate the bill once it reached the plenary.


Manansala was disappointed that the fiercest critics of their lobbying had been the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), the umbrella organization of physicians in the country.

“It is disheartening because these doctors should be among the ones supporting us. Since 2014, they had been demonizing our efforts to legalize medical cannabis,” he said.

For the PMA, the current proposed bills on medical marijuana, once they become law, would “open the floodgates for the legalization of recreational marijuana.”

It said several countries, including Thailand and Canada, which have legalized marijuana, were now trying to reverse their policies, citing reportedly increased hospitalization, particularly alleged cannabis poisoning among the youth.

The Department of Health (DOH) currently allows the medical use of cannabis under a compassionate special permit (CSP) issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

However, according to Manansala, the application for CSP was a “complicated process that, in practice, makes access practically impossible,” with many of their patients dying before even being granted a CSP.

Both the current administrations of the DOH and FDA are supporting legislation on medical cannabis, but it should be “based on the best available scientific evidence, with cost-effectiveness and public health impact among the considerations.”

No to local cultivation

The DOH, however, does not support the cultivation of cannabis plants or the manufacture of cannabis products in the country.

Since the 16th Congress, lawmakers have been attempting to pass legislation allowing for the medical use of cannabis or delisting cannabis and its derivatives from the list of prohibited drugs.

In 2014, then-Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano authored House Bill No. 4477, the first-ever bill proposing the legal use of medical cannabis. The House approved the bill but failed to pass the bicameral process without a counterpart bill in the Senate.

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The same scenario happened in 2019 when Albano’s House Bill No. 6517, or what would have been the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, got approved in the third and final reading. The Senate, however, was not able to pass its own version, attributed to then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s flip-flopping position on legalizing medical cannabis.

TAGS: Cannabis, medical

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