MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday it agrees with the House of Representatives Health Committee’s approval of the bill that seeks to legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis or marijuana.

"We agree to making it available for restricted and highly regulated medical use, like what we have for morphine and other highly addictive drugs," Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial said in a text message to reporters.

House Bill 180, or the proposed Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, was unanimously approved by the House committee on health on Tuesday after consulting patients, advocacy groups, health care practitioners, and experts in the regulation of controlled substances for medical use.

The bill was authored by Isabela 1st District Rep. Rodolfo Albano III.

Under the bill, the use of marijuana to treat debilitating medical conditions would be allowed only for medication purposes.

The bill seeks to establish Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers that would be licensed by the DOH and based in DOH-retained hospitals, specialty hospitals and private tertiary hospitals. These centers are eyed to “sell, supply, and dispense cannabis to qualified patients or their caregivers through a pharmacist with an S3 license issued by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.”

The measure also seeks to create DOH-licensed Medical Cannabis Research and Safety Compliance Facilities that would “conduct scientific and medical research on the medical use of cannabis and provide testing services for its potency and contaminants.”

The bill specifies that only employees or agents could access the facilities and perform tests on cannabis.

However, Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002 classifies cannabis as a prohibited drug. (PNA)