Is the Philippines Next for Marijuana Legalization?


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Marijuana has already been legal or at least decriminalized in many countries such as Canada, Chile, Argentina, Australia, Mexico, Colombia and others parts of Europe. In Asia, there are also few that are starting to adopt the liberating policy towards this very helpful and important plant such as Thailand, North Korea, Sri Lanka, India, and Malaysia. In countries such as Uruguay and South Africa, citizens are even allowed to plant their own marijuana at home, of course, with proper regulation from their government. The big question is, is the Philippines next for cannabis legalization?

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It is already known worldwide that cannabis, hemp, or marijuana has a lot of uses. In many parts of the US and Europe, household products, fiber, paper, and nutritious foods made from marijuana has already been commercially available since decades ago. This market has been thriving and many of the companies belonging to the cannabis industry still operate up to these days. Governments of different country have also agreed that marijuana is the best cure for cancer and other debilitating diseases.

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But on the other hand, marijuana has also been demonized for decades. Many business institutions especially those that are threatened by its potentials in the market, have also contributed to the misleading effort. Things such as fuel, clothes, heavy ropes, plastic for massive industrial purposes, and even concrete for houses and buildings are some of the uses of this very amazing gift from nature. This is the reason why it has been used in so many countries for centuries and even for millennia. Unfortunately, many people in many parts of the Philippines are still suffering from the prohibition of this plant. Sadly, many even lost their lives because of the government’s ongoing “war against cannabis”.

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Meanwhile, up to now many people don’t know that it has been publicly admitted by the American government that cannabis has many potential uses many years ago. In fact, in 2003, the US already obtained the Patent for cannabis (US Patent 6630507). However, Patent 6630507 only covers some non-psychoactive compounds and not the whole plant. This means it has nothing to do with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

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In addition, since 1985, there has been also a synthetic medicine derived from marijuana or cannabis called Marinol (dronabinol). It has been used for decades in many hospitals. Marinol was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating nausea and vomiting related to cancer chemotherapy. The approval of Marinol has also been extended to include the treatment of weight loss and anorexia in people with HIV infection.

 Image source: USpatent6630507 | download the handout

Here in the Philippines, on the 28th of January, on its third reading, the senate has approved the House Bill 6517 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act. The bill intends to improve the medical cannabis law that is already existing in the country to ensure that many Filipinos can access the healthcare in a non-expensive system while also taking real efficient steps in combatting serious diseases such as cancer. Even President Duterte was said to be willing to sign the bill. According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo during his speech in a press briefing in Malacañang last December 2018, President Duterte is in favor of the legalization for medical purposes. Panelo stated, “Since the President already made a statement that he’s in favor of limited use of marijuana… logically, then he will support… and sign any bill that would be consistent with his stand”.

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