Ejercito says enough safeguards provided in medical marijuana bill

By Wilnard Bacelonia

February 29, 2024, 2:54 pm

<p>Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito <em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito (PNA file photo)

MANILA – Senator Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito on Thursday said there are sufficient safeguards provided in Senate Bill No. 2573, or the Cannabis Medicalization Act of the Philippines for him to sign the committee report on the proposed measure.

The panel report was prepared and submitted jointly by the Senate Committees on Health and Demography; Public Order and Dangerous Drugs; and Finance.

Ejercito is one of the 13 senators who signed Committee Report No. 210, together with Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, and Senators Robinhood Padilla, Christopher Lawrence Go, Ronald dela Rosa, Sonny Angara, Jinggoy Estrada, Mark Villar, Lito Lapid, Raffy Tulfo, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Grace Poe.

"Nakita ko naman na meron namang safeguards na nilagay po doon. Dapat may monitoring for every product para alam kung saan mapupunta talaga. So, yun yung nakita ko sa bill (I saw that there are safeguards stated there. There should be monitoring for every product to determine where it will really go. So, that's what I saw in the bill)," Ejercito said during the regular Kapihan sa Senado forum.

SB 2573 includes provisions on who are qualified patients; issuance of written prescriptions; qualifications of the physicians issuing the prescription; the administration of medical cannabis; qualified cannabis industry players; and the parameters for the cultivation, production and manufacturing of cannabis, among others.

Ejercito said these safeguards should be clearly stated in the implementing rules and regulations, if ever the bill is enacted.

He also suggested that medical cannabis products should be initially imported, and be provided with QR codes for easy tracking and monitoring.

"Siguro i-import na lang muna kung saka-sakali, kasi ang challenge diyan kung magkakaroon ng plantation. Madaling magamit (Maybe we should import it [medical cannabis] first if ever [the bill is enacted into law], because the challenge there is if there will be plantations. It can be easily abused)," Ejercito noted.

Ejercito, who was former chairperson of the Health and Demography panel, added that he is open to discuss the proposed measure, citing personal experiences.

"My sister-in-law is an epileptic. Ang alam ko, kapag inaatake yun, madalas halos araw-araw. Nakakatakot, di mo alam kung magsu-survive. Pero nung nakakuha siya ng medical cannabis, ng medication, nawala na talaga (What I know is that she had seizures almost on a daily basis. It is scary because you don't know if she will survive. But when she got the medical cannabis, the medication, it was gone)," Ejercito said, noting that cancer patients are also pushing for the measure.

Sponsored by Senator Padilla, SB 2573 recognizes the medicinal quality of marijuana, and seeks the establishment of a Philippine Medical Cannabis Authority under the Department of Health, which shall be assisted by the Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee.

Revilla and Villar signed the report with reservations while Go, Poe, Pimentel, and Villanueva said they might interpellate or propose amendments to the measure.

On the other hand, Senator Imee Marcos said she did not sign the committee report because the lines of authority and enforcement were not clear to her.

"I appreciate the intent, particularly the compassionate use of marijuana, but at the same time, I would like to see very clear lines of control and regulation, as well as a mechanism for genuine enforcement, which has impeded the implementation of this law in many jurisdictions – some much better managed than ours," Marcos said in the same forum.

Gusto ko mahigpit kung sino yung authority, kung sino talaga ang mamamahala. Hindi masyadong maliwanag sa akin (I want it to be clear – who the authority is, who the administrator is. It is not quite clear to me)."

Looking at other countries, Marcos noted that enforcement has repeatedly failed, particularly in the limitation to medical use, which, she said scares her.

She cited what a lot of doctors have been saying that allowing the medical use of marijuana could make it a "gateway drug" to dangerous drugs.

"Sasabihin nila medical use lamang, pero dun sa enforcement, sa implementation, imposibleng gawin kasi may mahahanap at mahahanap talaga na dahilan (They will say it's only for medical use but in the enforcement and implementation, that would be impossible because they will always find a reason)," Marcos said. (PNA)