By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed on third and final reading the proposed bill legalizing the use of marijuana strictly for medical purposes.
With 163 affirmative votes and five negative, House Bill 6517 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act hurdled final reading. Three congressmen abstained.
However, House approval of the measure does not guarantee enactment as the Senate has yet to pass its own version of the bill until the end of session in June.
Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, principal author of the bill, remained optimistic that senators will act on the measure although he admitted that the window for approval is slim due to the election break that will start February 8.
“If the Senate fails to pass its version within the 17th Congress, then it will be back to zero in the next,” said Albano.
House approval of the bill came quickly after it was endorsed by former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Reigning Miss Universe Catriona Gray had also declared her support to the legalization of medical marijuana.
Aside from Albano, other principal authors of the measure are Reps. Reps. Johnny Pimentel (PDP-Laban, Surigao del Sur) and Tom Villarin (Akbayan Partylist).
HB 6517 provides for the compassionate and right of access to medical cannabis. It also proposes the expansion of medical research into its medicinal properties.
Albano said the proposed measure contains strict provisions that would guarantee that no raw marijuana leaves will be used in treating patients with serious medical conditions, particularly those suffering from extreme pain.
He explained that under the bill, only the government can cultivate marijuana plant for medical use.
“Sale of raw or dried marijuana that is not in medicinal form is prohibited. Smoking the substance remains illegal under the bill,” said Albano.
In an interview last week, Arroyo said she used a “pain patch” also known as cannabis patch, to relieve the severe pain caused by her cervical spine condition.
“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,” she revealed.
The former chief executive was quick to clarify that she does not use the effective pain relief patch in the Philippines because it remains prohibited under the law.
Arroyo said she filed the medical cannabis bill because of her personal experience.
“So 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,” she stated.
Gray voiced out her support to the proposal when she won the title.
“I’m for the use (of marijuana) in the medical use but not so for recreational use because I think if people were to argue what about alcohol and cigarettes, well, everything is good but in moderation,” the Filipina beauty said before a live television audience.
Albano said Arroyo and Gray joined top American basketball stars of the National Basketball Association.
It will be recalled that Coach Steve Kerr of the two-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors supported the lifting of the league’s ban on medical cannabis for players.
Albano said Kerr has predicted that the on-going move to lift the prohibition will “happen eventually.”
He disclosed that Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl Anthony Towns and former NBA Commissioner David Stern also came out with statements urging the NBA to allow the use of the substance for professional cagers representing cities where medical marijuana is legal.