Medical marijuana bill OK but amendments needed: PDEA

MANILA — The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said it has no objection to the proposed bill allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, provided that applicable safeguards under the law are followed.

“PDEA supports the intention and purpose behind the proposed bill. The Agency recognizes the need of patients to have access to safe, affordable, available medical cannabis prescribed by registered physicians in cases where cannabis has been found to be effective in the prevention, treatment and management of chronic or debilitating health conditions,” PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino said in a statement.

Aquino, however, said PDEA has made the following specific recommendations to help improve the bill:

-Inclusion of definition of the terms Marijuana and Cannabis: Marijuana is a term used to describe all plant parts of Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis sativa forma indica, and Cannabis ruderalis, namely, leaves, fruiting tops, stems, flowers, and roots. Cannabis, also known as marijuana among several other names, is a preparation of the cannabis plant (scientific name: Cannabis Sativa) intended for use as psychoactive drug or medicine;

-The proposed bill must be very specific and shall only legalize the use of tablet or capsule preparations of the alleged medicinal component of Cannabis and not cannabis per se;

-Amendments to Section 6 Paragraph b of the bill which must read as ‘proof of bonafide relationship with the patient.’ PDEA said in order for a physician to be competent to certify a patient’s medical need to use cannabis, he/she must show proof that he/she has a bonafide relationship with the patient; and

-Inclusion of the statement “cultivation, possession, use, sale, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of cannabis not in accordance with the provisions of the Act shall be deemed a violation of Republic Act 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.” in Section 26 of the bill.

“PDEA is inclined towards the passing of House Bill No. 180 and eventually its enactment into law.
However, control measures and regulations on the medical use of cannabis are highly needed to ensure the patient’s safety and prevent its use for recreational purposes,” Aquino said.

“But as of the moment, the fact remains that under existing Philippine laws, marijuana is a dangerous drug whose cultivation, sale and use are strictly prohibited. PDEA will continue to enforce the law and enjoin the public to abide by the law,” the PDEA chief added.

On September 26, the House health committee has unanimously approved House Bill 180, otherwise known as the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act authored by Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III.

The committee approved the measure, which seeks to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, after extensive consultations with different stakeholders including patients, advocacy groups, experts, and industry professionals, among others.

Albano said thousands of patients suffering from serious and debilitating diseases in the Philippines would benefit from legalizing the medical use of cannabis.

The solon said the bill’s intent is to invoke the right of the patient to choose treatment and the duty of the physician to honor the patient’s decision, as well as to inform the patient of the side effects of such treatment.

The bill provides for the establishment of the Medical Cannabis Compassionate Center (MCCC) licensed by the Department of Health (DOH) to acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, sell, supply and dispense cannabis, devices or related supplies to registered qualifying patients.

It also seeks the creation of a Medical Cannabis Safety Compliance Facility (MCSCF) to conduct scientific and medical research on the medical use of cannabis and provides testing services for its potency and contaminants and mandates the DOH to issue identification cards to qualified medical patients after a careful review of their required documents.

The DOH will be the lead regulatory agency in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration while the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency shall have a key role in monitoring and regulating the dispensation of medical cannabis in health facilities.