Solon elated over ‘renewed interest’ in medical marijuana bill

MANILA — The main author of the medical marijuana bill in the House of Representatives on Tuesday expressed delight over the public’s “renewed interest” in the legalization of the substance in the country.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, author of House Bill 6517 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, made the statement following newly-crowned Miss Universe Catriona Gray’s support for the use of medical marijuana.

Albano also expressed hope that the bill will be passed before the end of the 17th Congress as it will provide patients suffering from serious and debilitating diseases with alternative medicine.

The bill is currently being considered for second reading approval at the House of Representatives.

Albano said while there is no counterpart bill in the Senate yet, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, who chairs the Senate Health Committee, threw his support behind medical marijuana legalization.

“It is time for us to decide based on evidence. Around the globe, controlled clinical trials assessed the safety and efficacy of marijuana and its naturally occurring compounds proving the therapeutic and palliative effects of cannabis,” he said.

Albano said his bill adopts a very strict regulatory framework but at the same time promotes the people’s right to health by ensuring affordable and safe access to medical cannabis.

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.

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.

“It (medical cannabis) is available only to qualified patients with IDs issued by DOH after S3 licensed doctors have made a full assessment of their medical history and current medical conditions and who will provide follow-up care,” he said.

Albano, however, reiterated that his bill does not seek to decriminalize the use of cannabis or marijuana, nor does it allow smoking.

“This is not about the recreational use of marijuana. What it does is to create a limited and narrow exception to the country’s criminal and civil laws to allow a physician to recommend medical cannabis to patients with serious and debilitating medical conditions,” Albano said.