House approves medical marijuana bill on final reading

By Jose Cielito Reganit

January 29, 2019, 6:51 pm

MANILA -- The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed on third and final reading a measure that would allow the use of and research in medical marijuana in the country.

House Bill (HB) No. 6517, or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, was approved with a vote of 163-5 with three abstentions.

The proposed measure, which was principally authored and sponsored by Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, has the support of President Rodrigo Duterte and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

According to Albano, the regulation of “controlled substances” for medicinal purposes underwent exhaustive consultations with patients, advocacy groups, health care practitioners, and experts.

He thanked his colleagues for their support, saying the enactment of the bill will help patients suffering from pain and other debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer.

He also urged the measure’s critics, including lawmakers, various doctors' groups and the medical community to look into the merits of his proposal, pointing out that the bill “does not and will not promote the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.”

“The bill clearly provides that the use of medical marijuana has to comply with strict regulatory requirements under the Department of Health (DOH)," the lawmaker said.

"By saying that the medical marijuana will be a gateway to illegal drugs or will encourage addiction, the critics of my bill obviously do not know what they are talking about," Albano added.

As provided under HB 6517, the only places where prescribed medical cannabis will be available are DOH hospitals, tertiary hospitals, and private hospitals licensed for medical cannabis purposes.

Only licensed doctors authorized by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) can issue prescriptions for medical cannabis.

The authorized licensed doctors would be prescribing medical cannabis for very specific conditions and purposes based on their expert diagnosis.

There will also be licensed medical cannabis caregivers, who will be issued special identification cards by the DOH Secretary.

The medical cannabis caregiver can attend to only one patient at any time.

Likewise, medical cannabis patients will also be issued special identification cards. (PNA)