Medical cannabis advocates press for law allowing its use in PH

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 07 2022 11:54 PM

Groups advocating for the legalization of medical cannabis use pressed for the Senate’s support to Senate Bill No. 230 which seeks to allow the compassionate use of cannabis or marijuana for medical purposes.

Rowena Pilapil, who identified herself as a mother of an epileptic child, narrated the ordeal of her child and how difficult it is to get a compassionate special permit (CSP) from the Dangerous Drugs Board so they would be allowed to use cannabis to ease her 12-year old child’s suffering.

Pilapil said her child also has autism, late development and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

“Hindi po ako nabigyan ng pagkakataon na mabigyan ng mabigyan ng CSP dahil hindi po alam kung ano ang konkretong requirements para maibigay ko sa kanila… kailangan po namin ng gamot na hindi po magkakaroon ng long term side effect para sa mga anak naming,” Pilapil said.

“Ang anak ko po, matagal na pong umiinom ng antiepileptic drugs. Marami po ang mga long term side effects na hindi po sinasabi ng doctor. Ako pong magulang ang nakakakita po kung ano po yun… nakakalbo po siya, nagiging marahas po siya,” she added.

Like Rowena, Dr. Donnable Trias-Cunanan’s daughter Julia Dominique is also suffering from epilepsy, global developmental delay and cerebral palsy.

Cunanan, President and Spokesperson of Canna Hopefuls, Inc., said she had to undergo a rigorous process to be able to finally get a CSP from DDB which she applied for between 2016 to 2017.

“Ang compassionate special permit po is not compassionate at all… humingi po ako ng napakakapal na medical abstract ng aking anak sa ospital. Pangalawa, hiningan ko po ng awa at support para lang po iriseta ito sa akin,” Cunanan said.

Her visit to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) where she had to ask for a clearance to be able to buy the cannabis drug in medicine form.

Cunanan said, children with those conditions can be aided by cannabis extracts which, however, is priced at P1.6 million.

Maria Louella Manansala, founder of Seniors for MedCan Philippines said even sickly people like them also need cannabis.

Manansala said, prescribed medicines become more powerful if mixed with cannabis.

“Pabor kami na maging abot-kamay, magaan sa bulsa, siguradong epektibo at ligtas ang gagamitin naming gamot galing sa halamang cannabis,” Manansala said.

Manansala said medical use of cannabis must be allowed to arrest the situation today where only the rich and politicians can access the product.

Dr. Gem Marq Mutia, founder and President of Philippine Society Cannabinoid Medicine criticized the government agencies concerned for always saying that studies about the safety of cannabis for medical use are still insufficient.

Mutia said cannabis help alleviate the effects of radiation and chemotherapy on cancer patients.

One of the invited resource persons in the hearing was Dexter Padilla, a nephew of the senator who is into cannabis business in the United States.

Dexter Padilla, Chief Operating Officer of Atlas Quality Assurance Labs said he was once jailed in the US for advocating cannabis use.

Padilla said he has been with the business since 2008 and his company has also been helping the US economy through revenues.

“The cannabis industry is evolving daily. If this passes… I believe you will get 1 percent of the population which is gonna be somewhere around 100,000 qualified patients. You’re gonna have to scale that out.. there’s gonna be a lot of challenges… as the industry evolves, we all have to keep an open mind,” Dexter Padilla said.

Senator Robin Padilla, author of SB 230, meantime clarified he is pushing for medical cannabis use to help the sick.

“Hindi ko po isinusulong ang recreational marijuana. Ang akin pong isinusulong ay medical marijuana,” Padilla said.

Padilla said it’s time to open the debate on medical cannabis use and finally consider the plight of the sick.

“Karapatan po ng pasyente ang pumili ng nararapat na gamot na kanyang nararamdaman. Sa kasalukuyan limitado ang paggamit sa cannabis sa medical at therapeutic na pamamaraan. Obligasyon po natin bilang mambabatas na punuan ito, na bigyan ng kalayaang mamili ang may karamdaman ng paraan ng paggamot na sa tingin niya ay nararapat sa kanya, kaagapay ng prescription ng kanyang duktor,” Padilla said.

Senator JV Ejercito, for his part, said he is willing to support the bill, for as long as safeguards will be ensured in the bill.

Ejercito has one relative who has epilepsy, and another with cancer.

“If this will prolong life, relieve pain, why not? Kailangan lang siguro na ito’y mabantayan para hindi maabuso,” Ejercito said.

Senator Nancy Binay on the other hand said she will took a vote only after hearing the opinion of those who are against the measure.

“Tama na dapat pag-usapan kung napapanahon na ba na magamit ang cannabis for medical purposes… kailangan talagang pag-aralan. Ang sa akin nga, we should always follow the science. Sinasabi naman talaga ng science na makakatulong ito for medical purposes… unang-una kailangan nating malaman ano yung safeguards,” Binay said.

But for health advocate, Dr. Tony Leachon said, concerns about cannabis use must be thoroughly studied first by the FDA, like the issue of dosage that must be given to the sick, classification, among others.

“We have to get through the obstacles of the regulatory, safety at saka yung medical aspect,” Leachon said.

“I’m trying to listen. Pero sa doctor kasi pag nanumpa ng Hippocratic Oath, mas matindi po sa amin ang first, do no harm eh rather than efficacy… hindi kaya maging gateway ito para muling mabuhay ang drugs sa ating bansa?” Leachon said.

The issue of possible abuse of cannabis can also happen, if there is no strict policy for it.