Is it time to legalize marijuana in the Philippines?


James Deakin

Ok, I know some of you may have been triggered by the title, but just hear me out. Just because this goes against half a century of mass media demonization and state sponsored indoctrination, isn’t it about time we have a grown up conversation about this? If not now, then when? Thailand has already allowed the recreational use of cannabis, and by doing so, has once again leapfrogged us by creating a very profitable industry (just like the auto industry that they developed before that) which would have been more at home here in the Philippines.

But Tito James, this is illegal drugs we are talking about not cars! What on earth are you saying? How dare you! Think about the children! We will become a nation of addicts!

Well, firstly, legalizing it is not suggesting that we allow children to use it. It should be treated like alcohol, with age restrictions and proper licenses to sell it. Secondly, it’s only illegal because Richard Nixon said so. Prior to 1972, before the passing of Republic Act No. 6425, or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 (which was a direct response to Nixon’s war on drugs) marijuana was simply a harmless plant that had grown peacefully for millennia.

And lastly, being illegal doesn’t necessarily make something bad. For example, It was illegal for American citizens to own gold from 1933 up to 1975. Today, it is considered a sign of success, prestige and luxury. It was also not that long ago when it was illegal for a certain race to vote or women to drive, yet in 2009 the US elected an African American president that served two terms and Saudi Arabia now welcomes women drivers. In some places, it is still illegal to be gay, or for women to wear their hair out. Starting to see the pattern here? Criminalizing something doesn’t automatically mean it is bad.

The law is there to serve the people and not the other way around. And as society evolves, so should our laws. Because with all the modern problems we face, the answer is not to add more laws and enforcement agencies but to regularly update them so we can prioritize the use of our law enforcement resources for the things that actually matter. In other words, pick your battles.

But Tito James, we already have provisions for medical use, why the need to make it available for recreational as well?

While it is true that individuals with serious or terminal illnesses may apply for a special permit from the Food and Drug Administration for drugs unregistered in the Philippines, including those containing cannabis, it is reported that since the issuance of permits began in 1992, only one application has been filed to seek consent to use cannabis oil as of December 2018.

So regardless of who or what you blame here, I think it's fair to say that the ‘provision’ that has been given here has not made it any more accessible to those who really need it. So the reason I suggest that we look at legalizing it is because it solves a paradox that has been created by these antiquated laws that state that it is illegal to use something unless it has been tested for efficacy and safety, when it is illegal to test something for efficacy and safety while it classified as an illegal substance.

Also, because nothing in nature can be patented, drug companies not only have zero incentive to do research and development on it, they have every incentive to block it as it competes directly with their profits. So you need to remove that conflict of interest right there.

End of the day, there is no evidence of any deaths as a direct result of marijuana use — a far cry from the half million deaths per year due to tobacco use in America alone. Let’s not even mention opioids or alcohol. But just the mere fact that cannabis went from illegal to essential in the US (it was one of the few businesses allowed to open up during the Covid lockdown of 2020) in just four years goes to show how we need to always be prepared to change our mind when presented with new facts.

So all I ask you who is reading this now is to be open minded. Try to think outside of the indoctrination and do your own research. You do not need to use cannabis to support the legalization of it. Because one of the many benefits that the legalized use of cannabis can bring for all of us is to help boost tourism and taxation. Just ask Thailand. They are rolling in it. Pun intended.