GMA files House bill legalizing medical marijuana

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
GMA files House bill legalizing medical marijuana
If the proposed regulation on the medical use of marijuana derivative cannabidiol is passed, there would be no need for a separate law, according to the Dangerous Drugs Board.

MANILA, Philippines — Former president and now Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has joined former House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in endorsing the use or legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.

“The use of cannabis for medical purposes is provided for by both existing international and national law,” the congresswoman of Pampanga’s second district stated in House Bill 7817 that she authored.

“It is the intention of this bill to have a harmonious partnership between the physician and a patient where no one is above the other,” Arroyo explained.

It was actually a re-filing of HB 6517 that she filed in the previous 18th Congress (2019-2022).

HB 6517 reached the second reading phase but failed to make it to the House plenary.

“I really believe in medical cannabis. As you know I have my problem here (cervical spine) and when I’m in a country that allows it, I put a pain patch, but here in the Philippines I cannot do it,” she had told reporters in a chance interview when she was still speaker.

“I authored that bill because I believe that it can help me and many other people, but there was a lot of objection to the bill from the House and from the Senate. That’s why we are just letting the legislative process take its course,” Arroyo explained.

Arroyo underwent operations for cervical spondylosis, an age-related deterioration in the bones of the neck, causing a misalignment in the spine which, in turn, puts pressure on the nerves that transmit signals to the upper extremities.

A titanium plate was implanted in her neck to realign the deformed spine.

Arroyo said the current HB 6517’s “objective is for the patient to have access to safe, affordable, available medical cannabis prescribed by a registered treatment and management of specified symptoms, illnesses and diseases.”

“While many patients may still opt for conventional and orthodox treatment, the intention here is to invoke the right of the patient to choose treatment and the duty of the physician to honor the patient’s decision, as well as to inform the patient of the side effects of such treatment,” Arroyo justified.

Commercial use

Insisting that nobody has yet died of marijuana use unlike health hazards alcohol, cigarettes and sugary substances, the author of the bill decriminalizing the prohibited drug admitted that it would pave the way for legalizing plantations for commercial use.

“In effect yes (it would lead to full legalization), because if this will no longer be prohibited, then people will be allowed to plant this instead of our very expensive onions. This may in fact be much cheaper than onions,” Alvarez insisted last February.

In an interview over TV-5’s “The Chiefs,” the Davao del Norte congressman, author of House Bill 6783 (An Act Removing Cannabis and any Form of Derivative Thereof from the List of Dangerous Drugs and Substances Under Existing Laws), openly endorsed his bill.

“As far as I know, persons who used marijuana have either not died or been hospitalized. I really don’t know why this substance remains prohibited until now,” the buddy of former president Rodrigo Duterte said. “What we should be banning are alcohol, cigarettes and sugar substances.”

Duterte himself thumbed down the medical marijuana bill in Congress in 2019.

Alvarez clarified, however, that he is not pushing for the delisting of cocaine, ecstasy and other prohibited drugs, primarily on the basis that marijuana provides health benefits to people, which is why many other countries have already legalized it.

“We cannot compare cocaine with marijuana of course, precisely because we all have seen the ill effects of cocaine to persons, even in other countries, specifically the harm that it gives to the body of individuals who use cocaine. The effect is really bad,” he stressed.

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