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Medical cannabis bill hurdles House committee approval

Medical cannabis bill hurdles House committee approval

The joint House committees on dangerous drugs and health on Wednesday approved an unnumbered substitute bill allowing the use of cannabis or marijuana for medical use.

Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers, chairman of the dangerous drugs panel, said the measure only allows for the medical use of cannabis and as such it will still be listed as an illegal drug as provided in the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act or Republic Act 9165.

"This [proposed] law only grants an exception to the enumeration of prohibited drugs under RA 9165 by limiting it for medical use. Cannabis in pharmaceutical form is allowed, provided that you have a prescription," Barbers said in a press conference.

"Also, the law has limitations, as the accredited physician is only allowed to prescribe what is allowable for the illness," he added.

Barbers said that while the proposed bill creates a Medical Cannabis Office (MCO) under the Department of Health to grant accreditation to doctors and other licenses, the MCO would still have to clear it with the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) before issuing these.

"There would still have to be coordination with the DDB to ensure that those securing licenses and permits are not involved in the illegal drug trade," Barbers said.

"Not all medical practitioners will be given accreditation, as they would need training, clearances, and comply with other requirements that won't be easy to secure," he added.

Likewise, the bill metes a heavy penalty on those found in faking illness or prescriptions to secure cannabis: jail time of at least six months but not more than six years, and/or a fine of P500,000 to P1 million.

The Health department currently allows the medical use of cannabis under a compassionate special permit.

Once the proposed bill becomes a law, Barbers said the issuance of a CSP will no longer be needed.

"We considered the opinion of medical practitioners during the course of the hearing, and there were testimonies that it [cannabis] really provides healing. We have to allow this [to gain ground] so we can test if it is really effective," he said. — BM, GMA Integrated News