MANILA - A day after the plenary approved on third and final reading a bill reimposing the death penalty for drug-related offenses except mere possession, the House Committee on Health began discussions on a bill seeking to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
House Bill 180, authored by Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, prescribes the rules for the proper use of medical marijuana including the designation of a qualified medical cannabis physician, a qualified medical cannabis patient who shall be issued an identification card, a qualified medical cannabis caregiver and a qualified medical cannabis compassionate center.
The bill would guarantee the confidentiality of patients and ensure that they will not become victims of discrimination.
Rep. Seth Jalosjos sponsored the bill on behalf of Albano who was busy at the Commission on Appointments as its Majority leader.
Jalosjos said legalizing marijuana for medical use "will benefit thousands of patients suffering from serious and debilitating diseases."
"According to the 2012 report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there were 98,200 new diagnosed cancer cases in a year in the country while 59,000 are dying of cancer annually," he said.
"Cancer treatment in the country is prohibitive depending on the type of cancer cause of treatment ranges from 36,000-18,000 for standard 6 cycles of chemotherapy. While Philhealth helps, patients still have out of pocket expenses," he added.
Jalojos shared that based on some studies, cannabis has "established effects" on controlling epileptic seizures, pain management in multiple sclerosis, and arthritis treatment of symptoms associated with HIV AIDS, and palliative care in end stage cancer treatment.
He noted that Israel, Canada, and Czech Republic have enacted laws that "removed criminal sanctions for the medical use of cannabis and defined eligibility and allow some means of access in most cases through dispensary," while Finland, Portugal, Spain, and Luxembourg "have developed various forms of de facto decriminalization."
Jalosjos stressed that "this act should not be deemed in any manner to advocate authorize promote or legally socially accept the use of cannabis or marijuana from non medical use. it provides for control measures and regulation on the medical sue of cannabis to ensure patient's safety."
The Health department, through its representative Jasmine Peralta, backed the medical use of marijuana but expressed some concerns, stressing that a precautionary approach should be taken and that "the benefits should outweigh the risk and harm from the potential use."
"Marijuana in herbal or plant form which is the form used for recreational purposes is not acceptable as medicine using the standard set forth by the FDA," she said.
"We all know cannabis has high potential for abuse. We need to undergo more extensive research or studies on the quality safety efficacy on the use of leaves or herbal form," she added.
Various stakeholders were allowed to make their presentations to the committee. Towards the end of the discussions, the body endorsed the matter to a technical working group.