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Should medical marijuana be legalized in the Philippines?

At the forefront of the fight to legalize medical marijuana is the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society (PCCS).

PCCS founding member Dr. Donnabel Trias-Cunanan has a 7-year-old daughter named Julia who has several conditions that would be manageable with medical marijuana.

"Meron siyang Dravet Syndrome, an intractable form of epilepsy. Meron din siyang Global Developmental Delay because of seizures and Cerebral Palsy," Dr. Cunanan said in a report on Stand for Truth.

Dr. Cunanan  said her daughter Julia is about to turn eight years old, but she hasn't developed speaking skills and she couldn't walk independently.

Even all the medicines she's been taking, Julia isn't getting any better. In fact, she's getting sick from them, too.

According to Dr. Cunanan, Julia has been diagnosed with pancreatitis because of all the synthetic drugs she needs to take.

"Nagkaroon siya ng pancreatitis, inflammation ng pancreas. Dahil sa dami ng synthetic drugs na tine-take niy,a nagdugo na po 'yong pancreas niya," she said.

Founder of Philippine Doctors for Medical Cannabis Dr. Gem Mutia claims cannabis has its medicinal benefits.

"Ang pinaka maraming evidence of benefit ng mga sakit ay epilepsy, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and nausea and vomiting for chemotherapy," Dr. Mutia enumerated.

The report noted a 2017 study from the United States that shows "there is  conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective treatment of chronic pain in adults [...], for improving patient reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms."

CBD or Cannabidiol is the compound found in marijuana that has medicinal benefits.

According to the World Health Organization, "In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD."

Despite studies that show marijuana indeed has medicinal benefits, the Department of Health Philippines does not support the legalization of marijuana in the country.

DOH Usec. Eric Domingo said they are not for legalizing it, but patients can choose to apply for a compassionate special permit to use and bring marijuana in the country.

"We're not for legalizing it, however, for those patients, for those very few patients who will need medical cannabis, pinapayag naman siya ng FDA na permit for compassionate use para maipasok sa Pilipinas yung mga produkto pero para lang sa enough dose na gagamitin ng pasyente na 'yon," he said.

Under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, marijuana is still illegal in the Philippines, but patients who need to have access to the unregistered drug can apply for a compassionate special permit.

Acquiring the permit however, is tedious and expensive, Dr. Cunanan said.

"Hindi po siyang madaling ma-access, it's very restrictive, the process is very tedious," she explained, adding importing marijuana will cost around USD 32,000, or approximately P1.6 million.

All Dr. Cunanan hopes for is to be able to give her daughter Julia proper treatment so she can live a normal life like other children.

"Pangarap ko na dumating 'yong araw na makapag-aral siya sa regular na eskwelahan and maging functional siya ultimately," she said. — Jannielyn Ann Bigtas/LA, GMA News