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After death penalty, House tackles medical marijuana

The committee’s decision came a day after the House approved on third and final reading a bill re-imposing the death penalty for certain drug-related offenses. AP/Rich Pedroncelli, file      

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives committee on health yesterday endorsed the use of marijuana for medical purposes.        

The committee’s decision came a day after the House approved on third and final reading a bill re-imposing the death penalty for certain drug-related offenses.        

Possession of illegal drugs, however, including marijuana, is not punishable by death under the bill but by life imprisonment.        

The health committee, chaired by Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, created a technical panel to come up with a final version of the medical marijuana bill authored by Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III.        

During yesterday’s hearing, Jorge Ignacio of the Philippine Cancer Society said he and physicians belonging to the organization support the use of medical marijuana for patients with debilitating ailments.        

He said substances in cannabis, another name for marijuana, have been found to relieve certain medical conditions.        

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If the Albano bill becomes law, Filipino physicians could train abroad, like in America, where medical marijuana is allowed in many states, Ignacio suggested.        

Albano expressed optimism that Congress would approve his bill.        

“I have high hopes under the Duterte administration that this measure would be enacted into law. Finally, there is hope for our people, especially our children, who suffer from medical conditions like epilepsy, cancer and multiple sclerosis,” he said.         

“Unlike many medical professionals, President Duterte has an open mind on medical cannabis,” he said.   

Albano recalled that shortly after winning the presidency in May last year, Duterte said he was not opposed to the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes and he was against its use for recreation.

“Medicinal marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now. There are drugs right now being developed or already in the market that (have) marijuana as a component… used for medical purposes,” then-Davao City mayor Duterte said. 

“If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it, ever. 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.”

Cannabis is among the prohibited substances under the Dangerous Drugs Act.   

Albano said cannabis “has been confirmed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses to treat chronic or debilitating diseases or medical conditions.”          

These include cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; and severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those associated with multiple sclerosis, he said.     

Under his proposal, the use of medical marijuana would be allowed under strict regulations to be issued by the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.       

He challenged critics of medical marijuana to “shed your fear of the unknown and open your minds to its potential benefits to patients with debilitating ailments who need it.”        

“Marijuana, even in its raw form, is not harmful, unlike tobacco and liquor,” he said.        

Doctors supporting the Albano bill have told the House that at least 23 states in America allow marijuana for medicinal use.        

They said there is no single death in the United States attributed directly to the use of marijuana, unlike smoking and drinking.

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