By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Now that President Rodrigo Duterte has already put his foot down against it, the principal author of the House proposal that will legalize the use of medical marijuana said that he will no longer lobby for its passage.
Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, principal author of House Bill 6517, the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, said he has already done his part in bringing up the issue of legalizing the use of medicinal marijuana for the benefit of thousands of patients who are suffering from serious and debilitating diseases, including children.
“No more lobbying on our part. Kung ako ang maglo-lobby iisipin pa ni Presidente may lobby money yan,” said in a phone interview. “I don’t have any interest here, maliban sa quality of life para sa mga bata na may debilitating diseases at sa mga magulang nila,” Albano said.
He said the ball is now in the hands of the patients and their parents who will have to convince the President to change his mind.
“I never discussed this bill with the President, hindi ko ni-lobby yan. Pinabayaan ko sya (President Duterte) kung ano ang gusto nyang gawin,” Albano said.
He said it was quite expected that Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, being the former head of the Dangerous Drugs Board, rejected his bill.
Sotto earlier cited that the bill was unnecessary since the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has guidelines for issuing “compassionate special permits.”
At present, marijuana is classified as a prohibited substance, just like methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, cocaine and heroin, under the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Under the law, mere possession of at least 500 grams of marijuana, or at least 10 grams of marijuana concentrate (resin or resin oil), is punishable by life in prison plus a fine of up to P10 million. Carrying lesser quantities of the drug is punishable by 12 to 20 years in prison plus a fine of up to P500,000.
Albano’s House Bill 6517 seeks the creation of a Medical Cannabis Regulatory Authority which is tasked to issue registry identification cards to qualified patients and caregivers. It will be under the umbrella of the Department of Health (DOH) to regulate the medical use of cannabis in the country.
The bill provides that a licensed physician shall make a complete assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition to determine that the patient is suffering from a debilitating medical condition.
Under the measure, a Medical Cannabis Compassionate Center will be registered with the Medical Cannabis Regulatory Authority. The Center will be licensed to “acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, sell, supply and dispense cannabis, paraphernalia or related supplies and educational materials to registered qualifying patients.”
Qualifying patients will be allowed access to the use of medical marijuana only through the Center, according to the measure.
The measure also calls for the establishment of Medical Cannabis Safety Compliance Facility to “conduct scientific and medical research on medical use of cannabis” and provide testing services for its potency, among others.