The lower house of the Philippines Congress has approved a bill to legalise medical cannabis consumption and production, which has the support of hard-line President Rodrigo Duterte.
On 29 January, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the final reading of House Bill 6517 – the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act – which would permit patients to use medical cannabis if they are diagnosed with certain debilitating conditions and prescribed the drug by a licensed doctor. Qualifying medical conditions include cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and being HIV-positive.
Doctors will only be able to issue prescriptions for medical cannabis if they are individually authorised to do so by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), state media says. The bill would also create specialised facilities tasked with acquiring and dispensing medical cannabis.
The bill would allow for the domestic cultivation of cannabis. The bill states that the Dangerous Drugs Board shall "identify specific areas allowable for the cultivation of cannabis [… that] shall only be permitted in a closed, locked facility" that is a sufficient distance from schools.
The bill would create an advisory committee to devise and implement regulations, and would permit several research institutions – including the University of the Philippines’ National Institute of Health – to investigate uses of medical cannabis.
Prior to becoming law, the bill must be approved by the Senate, and then ratified by a bicameral conference committee, ABS-CBN reports.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has endorsed medical cannabis legalisation (Source: Wikimedia)
President Duterte, who has instigated a state-led slaughter of thousands of people for alleged involvement with drugs, has announced that he would sign any bill that legalises the use of medical cannabis in the Philippines. Duterte himself has admitted to using cannabis to "keep awake", but later asserted the comment was a joke. He has also said he was “abusing” the powerful opioid fentanyl – another claim that he later retracted.
Duterte’s drug war has ostensibly targeted people using or selling methamphetamine, however some of its victims were targeted for involvement with cannabis. Additionally, many people have been killed under the guise of the drug war despite no apparent involvement with the drug trade, or even drug use.