MANILA — A Philippine official on Friday said marijuana is limited for medical use in the country, and warned the public that using it for recreational purposes is still illegal.
The statement came days after the United Nations (UN) drug agency's member-states narrowly voted to remove cannabis from the category of dangerous drugs, following the World Health Organization's recommendation to make research into its medical use easier.
In an interview on Teleradyo, Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Chairman Catalino Cuy said the country only recognizes medical marijuana, and its recreational use is still illegal.
“Just to clarify, akala ng iba fully legal na. Hindi. Kinonsider lang ung medical use ng certain properties ng cannabis. Na-recognize na rin natin yan kasi nga we allowed epidiolex early this year na gamitin sa atin. Yun lang yun. Hindi ibig sabihin na puwede ka nang [gumamit]” Cuy explained.
(Some thought it was fully legal. No it is not. We are just considering its medical use because of the cannabis’ properties. We recognize it because we allow epidiolex… That’s it. That does not mean you could use marijuana now.)
He also said that the UN resolution only removed cannabis from the Schedule IV category, the classification that puts it into “drugs with dangerous properties that have no medical value,” because experts want to look into its therapeutic properties.
But cannabis is still under the Schedule I category, or substances that are “highly addictive and liable to abuse.”
“And mismong sa UN, nasa Schedule I pa rin siya. Doon lang siya tinanggal sa Schedule IV, sa Schedule I kasama pa rin siya sa risky na liable to abuse and highly addictive (substances). Nandoon pa din ang cannabis,” he said.
(It is still under Schedule I in the UN. Cannabis was only removed from Schedule IV but it is still classified as a substance which has risks on being highly addictive and liable to abuse.)
“Ibig sabihin mayroon lang nakita na medical use,” he added.
(It means cannabis has medical use.)
While marijuana is allowed medically, he said it is still restricted for “compassionate” use such as for patients who are under pain or those patients who have terminal illnesses. Long-term use of medicine with cannabis properties is also not allowed.
“Halimbawa, if the use of this epidiolex na nirerequest ng pasyente dahil terminal na nga, pinapayagan natin para sa peace of mind nila pero may permit pa rin yan sa PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), pero ina-allow naman sila,” he said.
(For example a patient requests epidiolex because he is terminally ill, we allow it for his peace of mind but it needs permit from the PDEA and FDA.)
According to the US FDA, epidiolex is an oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in patients two years of age and older. This is the first US FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from marijuana.
Cuy said that despite the UN resolution, marijuana is still considered as a dangerous drug in the Philippines, and would not be reclassified anytime soon.
Malacañang earlier said that medical marijuana would not be legalized under President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, as the President aired his concern regarding its misuse.
In 2019, the House of Representatives passed a proposed measure legalizing the use and research of medical marijuana in the country.
House Bill 6517 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act seeks to provide "compassionate and right of access to medical cannabis and expanding research into its medicinal properties."