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House OKs bill legalizing medical marijuana on second reading

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading the measure seeking to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

The chamber, through a vote of "ayes" and "nays," approved House Bill 6517, or the proposed "Philippine Medical Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act."

The bill, principally authored by Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano, seeks  to legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis, found to have beneficial and therapeutic uses in treating chronic or debilitating medical conditions.

If enacted into law, the measure will establish Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers (MCCC) which are authorized to sell, supply and dispense cannabis to qualified patients or their caregivers through S3-licensed pharmacists.

The MCCC is licensed by the Department of Health based in department-retained hospitals, specialty hospitals and private tertiary hospitals.

The bill will also provide for the establishment of the Medical Cannabis Research and Safety Compliance Facilities mandated to conduct scientific and medical research on the medical use of cannabis. 

Following the approval of the bill, Kabayan party-list Representative Ron Salo, one of the authors of the measure, said that it does not allow medical marijuana to be sold to the general public over the counter.

Salo said that if the bill passes, the only places where prescribed medical marijuana would be available are DOH hospitals, tertiary hospitals, and private hospitals licensed for medical cannabis purposes.

Meanwhile, the only people who may issue prescriptions for medical marijuana are licensed doctors authorized by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

"The authorized licensed doctors would be prescribing medical cannabis for very specific conditions and purposes based on their expert diagnosis," Salo said.

"There will also be licensed medical cannabis caregivers who will be issued special identification cards by the DOH Secretary. Medical cannabis patients will also be issued special IDs. The medical cannabis caregiver can attend to only one patient at any time," he added.

The issue regained national attention in December, when Philippines candidate Catriona Gray said during the Miss Universe pageant that she supported the use of marijuana in medical situations. She went on to win the title.

Last week, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said that when she is in a country where it is legal, she uses medical marijuana patches to deal with the pain from her cervical spine problem. — BM, GMA News