Barbers eyeing House probe on liquid marijuana-vape links

By Ellson Quismorio

Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers is eyeing a House inquiry on the supposed entry of liquid marijuana in the country through parcels related to vape devices or e-cigarettes.

Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (WEBSITE / MANILA BULLETIN) Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (Photo from Ace Barbers website / MANILA BULLETIN)

"The House Committee on Dangerous Drugs will call for an investigation if the evidence we gather warrants for it," reckoned Barbers, who chairs the panel in the current 18th Congress.

The Mindanao solon continued to express concern over information that liquid marijuana--also known as tetrahydrocannabinol or THC--has been entering the country as a package with certain vape products.

This was first reported in a series of exclusive articles by the Manila Bulletin earlier this week. Moreover, Bureau of Customs (BOC) Assistant Commissioner Vincent Philip Maronilla said "vaping parties" using THC are already taking place in the country.

According to Maronilla, such illicit vaping activities are patronized by more affluent people, given that a pair of liquid marijuana cartridges sells for P10,000.

"Apparently drug syndicates have shifted to the production of liquid marijuana as this is easier to conceal in its transport. In addition this has perhaps more appeal to the youth who are already dependent on the use of ," a disturbed Barbers said.

Barbers said authorities should keep a close eye on the country's ports since "there's no other place for liquid marijuana to enter the Philippines than in those places."

The marijuana plant, known for the "high" that it gives when smoked, is a prohibited drug under Philippine law. There are also advocates for the medicinal value of the plant.

The reports on marijuana-laced vaping came out just days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a ban on the public use and importation of e-cigarettes, which are generally referred to as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS).

While Duterte said his reason for the ban was health-related, there's speculation that intelligence on THC and vape had reached the Chief Executive. Duterte is known for his hardline stance against illegal drugs.

Barbers also served as Dangerous Drugs panel chairman during the previous 17th Congress.

There are at least 15 measures calling for the regulation of ENDS pending before the House Committee on Trade and Industry. Barbers filed two bills to this effect.