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House mulls legalizing medical marijuana

Movie and television personality Angel Aquino carries Kendra Janae Clemente who suffers from infantile spasms during a photo exhibit on the medical benefits of marijuana at the House of Representatives on Monday. Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines - The committee on health of the House of Representatives is considering the legalization of cannabis or marijuana for medical purposes.

In the course of a hearing yesterday on Bill 4477, titled “The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act,” committee chairman La Union Rep. Eufranio Eriguel said a technical working group (TWG) would be created to draft the panel’s version of the measure.

“The TWG will consider and consolidate all inputs from the authors, resource persons from the medical profession and government agencies and concerned non-government organizations,” he said.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, principal author of Bill 4477, welcomed the committee’s decision.

He said it would give hope to persons “with debilitating disease, severe pain, intense seizures and persistent muscle spasms that the legal solution to their problem is at hand.”

“I know most of you are desperate for alternative treatment. I know you have gotten tired of using only pharmaceutical drugs, yet your conditions continue to deteriorate,” he said.

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“I feel for all the parents who have spent huge sums of money and are continuing to spend more. You see light at the end of the long, dark tunnel of your children’s suffering and pain,” he said.

He added that there have been research findings that children with frequent medical seizures who were given medical marijuana felt a great improvement in their condition.

Albano pointed out that his bill seeks to allow the use of medical marijuana under strict regulations to be issued by the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

“The use of cannabis will be permitted only for medicinal and not recreational purposes,” he stressed.

He challenged critics of his bill to “shed your fear of the unknown and open your minds to the potential benefits of medical marijuana.”

“Marijuana, even in its raw form, is not harmful, unlike tobacco and liquor. I am the best proof of this. Out of curiosity, I used it in college, but I did not become a bad person. I did not become an addict,” he said.

He said his father had a friend who was a police general who smoked marijuana “because he considered it less harmful than smoking cigarettes or drinking.”

Rep. Leah Paquiz of the party-list group Ang Nars said she supports the Albano bill.

She emotionally told her colleagues that her son died in August last year “from a debilitating disease.”

“We could no longer afford morphine, which is expensive, and we wanted to use medical marijuana, but the law does not allow it. We had hoped that there was an alternative drug,” she said.

Romeo Quijano, one of several doctors invited by the Eriguel committee, said 23 states and the District of Columbia in the United States allow medical marijuana.

“There is no single death in the US in 2014 attributed directly to the use of marijuana, unlike smoking and drinking,” he said.

He said there is ongoing extensive research in the US, Spain and Israel on the medical uses of cannabis both in its raw and purified form.

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