DOH does not see the need for legalizing marijuana; says compassionate use of it is on the FDA law

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) does not believe that legalizing marijuana is necessary in the midst of the claims of actor Mark Anthony Fernandez that he is using marijuana to help prevent cancer.

DOH Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial said they do not subscribe to the idea of legalizing marijuana in order to provide access to it by those in medical need of the controlled substance.

“We, in the medical community, believe that legalizing a product (like marijuana) is not the way to go,” said Secretary Ubial in an interview.

She added that there is no need to legalize marijuana or cannabis because it can already be availed in the country by those needing it for medical purposes by simply seeking a permit from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The FDA Law right now provides access to drugs and medicines that are not registered in the Philippines for compassionate use,” Dr. Ubial explained.

FDA Circular No. 2014-009 allows the agency to provide Compassionate Special Permit to patients needing to use drug products that are not legalized in the country.

The Health Chief said that the physician of a patient needing marijuana for treatment is the one required to apply for a permit with the FDA.

To note, Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, includes marijuana resin, marijuana resin oil, and marijuana as among those considered as illegal substances.

There have been several medical anecdotes which indicate that marijuana is capable of treating cancer, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, and epilepsy.

On the context of legalizing marijuana or not, the Health Chief said they are leaving the issue to the country’s lawmakers.

“On its legalization, that matter is already up for Congress to decide,” Dr. Ubial said.

House Bill No. 180 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act has already been refiled by Isabela 1st District Rep. Rodolfo Albano.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ubial clarified that using marijuana for medical purposes does not include its raw form.

She said the forms of marijuana used for medicinal purposes are those that have undergone scientific processing.

“It has its medicinal uses but not in its raw form. The ones actually allowed are those that have already been extracted of its medicinal component,” she added.

Using marijuana in its raw form, according to the DOH head, carries more danger of developing cancer and other illnesses.

“In the raw form, actually, marijuana is more dangerous than tobacco leaves,” she warned, adding that it has 400 chemicals and many are carcinogenic.

It can be recalled that Fernandez was apprehended in Pampanga after the police found in his car one kilogram of marijuana last Oct. 3.

In his defense, Fernandez said he was using the prohibited substance for medical purposes, specifically to fight cancer.

The father of the actor, Rudy Fernandez, also a noted movie star, succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2008. Leilani Junio/