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Study the law, Sotto tells DOH chief on medical marijuana

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday advised Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to study the law over the latter's position on a proposal allowing the “compassionate use” of medical marijuana.

“He should review RA (Republic Act) 9165,” Sotto said, referring to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

“Compassionate use if allowed. No need for a bill...Aralin muna nila yung [RA] 9165,” Sotto added, saying he will object to the position of Duque during the Health Secretary's confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments (CA).

Duque, appointed last week by President Rodrigo Duterte, said he is in favor of medical marijuana for “compassionate use.” Duque was referring to House Bill 180 or otherwise known as the proposed Philippine Medical Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.

The proposal, approved at the House committee level last month, seeks to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Senator Gringo Honasan, chairman of the CA health committee, echoed the position of Sotto, saying the compassionate use of marijuana is “already in the law.”

“Technically, it's already in the law that with a doctor's certification that it's for medical/compassionate use, it is allowed,” Honasan said in a text message.

RA 9165 states that the government should “achieve a balance in the national drug control program so that people with legitimate medical needs are not prevented from being treated with adequate amounts of appropriate medications, which include the use of dangerous drugs.”

Senator JV Ejercito, chairman of the Senate health committee, meanwhile, said he is “open” to the proposal legalizing marijuana for medical use.

“If it will help in saving lives, why not? As long as parameters are in place to prevent its abuse, I am open to the idea,” Ejercito said.

“Of course, any substance abuse is a concern. We need to put safeguards to prevent abuse,” he added.

A bill filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros seeking to provide a comprehensive public health approach to the country's drug-related policy is also proposing the use of marijuana upon the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Under the proposal of Hontiveros, “the delivery, possession, transfer, transportation, or use of cannabis and other dangerous drugs intended for medical use or to treat or alleviate a patient’s medical condition or symptoms associated with his or her debilitating disease...shall be allowed upon application to and approval of the Food and Drug Administration.”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, for his part, warned of users who could take advantage of a policy allowing medical marijuana.

“We currently have very weak enforcement against the illegal drug trade. Because of this inherent weakness, unscrupulous users will take advantage of this liberal policy on marijuana use to make money and sell it to the market,” Gatchalian said in a text message. — RSJ, GMA News