Passage of medical marijuana bill seen to benefit Benguet

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Governor Crecensio Pacalso said Thursday the possible passage of the medical marijuana bill could benefit the province as a provider of raw material.

Pacalso expressed optimism on the bill now being crafted in Congress.

“We will apply as a source of the materials. We can be a recipient of the permit to legally grow them,” he said.

A number of sitios (sub-village) in Benguet used to produce marijuana in the past and local planters can be tapped to supply the needed raw materials that could be converted into medicines for various illnesses.

Pacalso, however, explained that if the bill is passed, they do not see vegetable or cutflower farmers shifting to marijuana production, and they would even discourage it.

“The production will be on a limited scale and unless the country intends to supply the whole world, there is no need for all our farming areas to shift to marijuana planting,” he said.

Provincial board member Jim Botiwey, chairman of the committee on health, said the people of Benguet would only appreciate marijuana use for medical purposes if proven that it had healing properties.

However, in terms of production, Botiwey said, “we cannot deny there were producers before so if legalized, it is more definite that there will be residents interested to produce it.”

But he said that at present, the government’s drug campaign had led former producers to stop planting marijuana and Benguet municipalities had  been declared drug-cleared by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Botiwey said passage of the bill will enable farmers to diversify their produce.

“Our farmers can have diverse products shifting from vegetables to flowers and probably marijuana that is good in the preservation of the soil and production of quality agricultural products which are of high value,” he said.

Last September, the House Committee on Health endorsed the controversial “Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act” which seeks to legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis, or marijuana which, in other countries, has been accepted to have therapeutic purposes in the treatment of chronic or debilitating medical conditions.

The proposal would still pass under further scrutiny of Congress.