House holds ‘joint’ session as groups back medical marijuana
Will Filipinos soon be reaching for marijuana as a cure for some ailments?
The possibility that doctors may soon be able to prescribe the use of medical marijuana loomed on Tuesday after the main proponent said there was no need for Congress to pass a law for this purpose as it was already allowed under the 12-year-old Dangerous Drugs Act.
According to Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III at Tuesday’s hearing of the House committee on dangerous drugs, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) just needs to draw up the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on the cultivation of the drug and its usage.
“I don’t think we need a law to legalize medical marijuana; apparently we only need an IRR. But I will still proceed with my plan to file a bill to legalize marijuana in order to make the law more stringent,” he said.
He added that both DDB chief Antonio Villar and DDB undersecretary Edgar Galvante had agreed to look into this provision and the possibility of drawing up the IRR.
Under the Dangerous Drugs Act, “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 for 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.”
Albano has pushed for the legalization of marijuana to give medical patients with incurable ailments access to alternative treatments. He has received support from his fellow members in the minority bloc, including minority leader and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora.
Also in favor of the move is a group of mothers. Dr. Donabelle Cunanan who represents “Moms for Medical Marijuana” which was formed last year, appealed to lawmakers to legalize marijuana as an alternative cure.
Cunanan is currently looking for a substitute for the medication used by her child who suffers from epilepsy. The medicine, however, has only made her child’s condition worse, she said.
She was backed up by Chuck Mananzala, founder of Medical Cannabis Research Center, who said that medical research abroad has shown that the use of marijuana has led to fewer seizures for individuals suffering from epilepsy.
He added that medical marijuana has also been used among cancer and HIV victims as it helps them through their dizzy and vomiting spells. It has also been proven to improve their appetite and give them a euphoric feeling.
The Department of Health, however, refused to recommend the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
During the hearing, Health Undersecretary Nemesio Gako said more research was needed to determine whether the benefits outweighed the risk of legalizing the addictive substance.
He added that there was no solid proof of marijuana’s medical benefits and that no doctor in the Philippines was willing to recommend it to patients.
He also said that not all cannabis varieties have the same effect and the department’s biggest fear was that its use would just lead to drug addiction.
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