MANILA - Newly appointed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday said he is open to legalizing medical marijuana but only for research purposes and only in its pharmaceutical form.
In a press conference, Duque said current studies on medical marijuana are not conclusive, adding that most of the time, potential risks outweigh potential benefits.
"In these 2 events only: One is for research purposes. The other one is for its medical benefits for patients who are unresponsive to traditional modalities of treatment," he said.
"Mahirap kasi pag in its raw form, uncontrolled, subject to abuse and addiction... That is, I believe, where the risks are most profound."
Duque said synthetic cannabis extracts are already available as prescription drugs in some places, but studies show this only treats the symptoms and not the actual illness.
The Department of Health said protocols in issuing permits for compassionate use of dangerous drugs are already laid down in Board Regulation no. 1 of the Dangerous Drugs Board.
The House committee on health recently passed the "Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act," which seeks to legalize medical marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Duque admitted he has not yet read the bill, as he was only appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte a couple of weeks ago, but vowed to study the measure.