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Medical marijuana bill one step closer to Senate plenary debates

The bill seeking to legalize medical marijuana in the Philippines has progressed in the Senate after 13 senators signified their approval on the committee report submitted by the joint Senate committees on Health and Demography, on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, and on Finance.

This means Committee Report No. 210, which contains Senate Bill 2573 or the proposed "Cannabis Medicalization Act of the Philippines," can now be sponsored on the Senate plenary for debates.

SB 2573 was signed by Senator Robin Padilla, principal author of the measure and chairman of the subcommittee that discussed the proposal; Senators Bong Go; Sonny Angara; and Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa.

Other senators who signed the measure were JV Ejercito, Jinggoy Estrada, Mark Villar, Lito Lapid, Raffy Tulfo, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Grace Poe, Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, and Majority Leader Joel Villanueva.

Poe, Villanueva, Pimentel, and Estrada signed but said they will interpellate, while Go, Villar, and Revilla said they signed with reservations.

Under the measure, the use of cannabis for medical purposes will be allowed "to treat or alleviate a qualified patient's debilitating medical condition or symptoms."

The medicalization of cannabis will include its acquisition, possession, transportation, delivery dispensing, administration, cultivation, or manufacturing by private individuals or entities only for medical and research purposes.

The measure will also create the Philippine Medical Cannabis Authority (PCMA) under the Department of Health, which will be the principal regulatory agency in the access and use of medical cannabis and the implementation of the proposed measure.

The PMCA will be mandated to formulate and adopt a Comprehensive Cannabis Medicalization Plan; formulate rules and regulations related to the propagation, cultivation, planting, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, distribution, dispensing, and patient licenses and prescription; establish and maintain an information system to track cannabis growth from seed to sale for monitoring and regulation purposes; and formulate and implement standard operating procedures for every stage of producing medical cannabis, among others.

A Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee will also be constituted to assist and provide directions in the formulation, implementation and assessment of policies, guidelines, and regulations under the proposed measure.

Patients considered qualified for the use of medical cannabis are those who are diagnosed by a certifying physician as having a debilitating medical condition and may receive therapeutic or palliative benefits from the use of medical cannabis.

The bill also includes provisions on the validity of prescription for patients, grounds for revocation of prescription, cultivation, production and manufacturing of cannabis, testing of cannabis, exemption from civil and criminal liability, prohibited acts, and penalties for violations of the proposed measure.

A joint congressional oversight committee will also be created to conduct a regular review of the implementation of the proposed measure. —KBK, GMA Integrated News