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Duterte OK with medical marijuana

But presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte warns those who use marijuana for recreational purposes that he will have them arrested. AP/Jeff Chiu, File photo

DAVAO CITY – Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte is not opposed to the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use but is against its use for recreational purposes.

Duterte, who anchored his campaign on curbing crime and illegal drugs, said marijuana is now an ingredient in some medicines.

“Medical marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now,” he told reporters on Monday night when asked about his stance on legalizing marijuana.  

“There are medicines right now being developed or already in the market that (have) marijuana as a component but used for medical purposes,” he added.

Duterte, however, said he would still have those who use marijuana for recreational purposes arrested.

“If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it ever,” the incoming president said. “It remains to be a prohibited item and there’s always a threat of being arrested. If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die,” he added.

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Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is among the prohibited substances under the Dangerous Drugs Act.

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado in 2014 has sparked debates on whether to permit the use of the substance for health purposes in the Philippines.

In the same year, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III filed a bill allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

He said cannabis would provide relief to people with a debilitating disease, severe pain, intense seizures and persistent muscle spasms.

Those who are in favor of the legalization of marijuana believe the substance can benefit patients who remain ill after trying all kinds of medicines and conventional treatments.  

Some sectors, however, are concerned about the possible effects of marijuana legalization on public safety. They pointed out that some crimes were committed by people who are high on the substance.

Groups representing doctors are opposed to the legalization of cannabis, saying there is still no assurance that the substance is effective in curing diseases.

In a congressional hearing held in 2014, Assistant Secretary Benjamin Reyes of the Dangerous Drugs Board said there is a component in cannabis that can be used medically but the plant has more than 30,000 components that should be controlled.

The Health department has vowed to review the bill seeking to legalize marijuana to determine if it is doable and to ensure that the substance would not be abused.

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