Sotto: Legalizing marijuana a disaster

By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2014 06:08 PM | Updated as of Feb 20 2014 02:08 AM

MANILA -- Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III on Wednesday delivered a privilege speech strongly opposing the legalization of marijuana in the country.

Sotto cited Republic Act 9165, also known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, where marijuana is classified as a dangerous drug. Possession and use of marijuana is punishable with 12 years to life imprisonment, depending on the quantity.

He also noted that the Philippines is a signatory to the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which classified marijuana as a dangerous drug, particularly the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UN-CND) Schedule IV.

"Every year, there are numerous petitions asking the U.N. that marijuana be legalized because of its so-called medical benefits. But the United Nations has consistently refused to give in to their petitions simply because up to now, there is no empirical data that could back up their claims," Sotto said.

"I do not think that these people who are lobbying for the legalization of marijuana are much better than the powerful research machinery of the United Nations-Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UN-CND)," he added.

He cited some countries that legalized marijuana use but now have doubts about its advantages and are now on the verge of a rollback.

He said The Netherlands is now considering to prohibit the use of marijuana. Based on their experience, the consumption of marijuana has tripled among the youth aged 18 to 20 years old after they made its use legal, Sotto reported.

He also said that Spain, which has the most relaxed drug-legislation in the world, is now also proposing a ban on the cultivation of marijuana plants for personal use because of its widespread abuse and proven detrimental effects to human health.

In Canada, its Court of Appeals declared marijuana per se as illegal but allowed the use of medical marijuana when appropriately prescribed. Sotto said, however, that many physicians in Canada have refused to prescribe medical marijuana because according to them, its benefits are not scientifically proven.

"Pinipilit kasi nila, na may nagagamot daw ang marijuana. Ang tinutukoy po nila ay ang tinatawag na cannabidiol o CBD na minor nonpsychoactive ingredient of marijuana. Some research says that CBD is considered to have a wide range of therapeutic benefits," he explained.

"Kung sinasabi ninyo na nakakagamot nga po talaga ang component na ito ng marijuana, eh di ito na lang po ang i-legalize natin. Why will we legalize the use and cultivation of marijuana? The proposal to legalize marijuana is misleading. It is camouflaged under the term 'medical marijuana.' You don't declare a nuclear bomb legal just because a small component of the bomb can be used to light up your house," he said.

The senator cited another case in the Philippines dated January 22, 2014, where elements of the Manila Police District arrested a pedicab driver for the rape-slay of a six-year-old girl in Paco, Manila.

The accused admitted smoking marijuana before he committed the crime and this is contained in the police report.

"I can cite hundreds of other crimes committed under the influence of marijuana, but let me stop at that incident for now. On January 29, or just 7 days later, some lawmakers from the House of Representatives were proposing to legalize marijuana usage, ostensibly for medical purposes. It is suggested that legalizing marijuana for medical use and decriminalizing its possession will set free those serving prison terms for marijuana use and, thus decongest our jails. Do they intend to raise false hopes?" he said.

Sotto said numerous studies also show that the negative effects of THC, a component of marijuana, include short-term memory problems; distorted perception (sounds, sights, time, touch); hallucinations and delusions; reduced blood pressure; long-term use leads to addiction; sleeplessness; bad temper; anxiety; depression; schizophrenia; chronic use leads to mental illness; vulnerability, and exposure to violence; respiratory problems; and affects brain development.

He believes legalizing marijuana will inevitably promote its use especially among the youth.

According to data obtained from the Dangerous Drugs Board, marijuana has consistently been the second most commonly abused substance for the past several years next to shabu.

"Malaking negosyo na po ito ng mga drug pushers sa ngayon, at mas magiging malaki pang negosyo kapag ito ay naisabatas at naging legal na. If we legalize the use of marijuana, it will become a disaster. If your child is using marijuana, will you encourage him of its continued use, or will you ask him to stop from using it? We will be sending a wrong message to the youth if we legalize marijuana," Sotto said.