Deliberations on legalizing the use of marijuana for medical reasons have begun at the Philippine House of Representatives.
The discussions for House Bill 180 came just a day after the chamber moved to reinstate the death penalty for drug-related offenses. Under the new death penalty bill, the recreational use of marijuana is punishable by life imprisonment.
According to ABS-CBN News, the proposed legislation will outline the rules for the legal use of medical marijuana.
The outline includes a legal designation for a qualified medical cannabis physician, a definition of a medical cannabis patient, a qualified medical cannabis caregiver and a qualified medical cannabis center. The patient will also be issued an identification card.
The bill was sponsored by First District of Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Seth Jalosjos on behalf of its original author, Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, who was absent during the hearing. The proposal also seeks strict regulations under the prescription by the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration
According to Jalosjos, legalizing marijuana for medical use “will benefit thousands of patients suffering from serious and debilitating diseases.”
The Philippine Cancer Society has also expressed support via Dr. Jorge Ignacio, who said the organization is highly in favor of medical marijuana for use of patients with debilitating ailments.
While this kind of legislation has failed to get backing from sitting presidents in the previous administrations, proponents of the new bill believe that it will be passed under President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime.
“I have high hopes under the Duterte administration that this measure would be enacted into law. Finally, there is hope for our people, especially our children, who suffer from medical conditions like epilepsy, cancer, and multiple sclerosis,” bill sponsor Albano was quoted as telling the PhilStar.
“Unlike many medical professionals, President Duterte has an open mind on medical cannabis,” he added.
Duterte has previously expressed belief in the potential medical benefits of marijuana but was against its recreational use.
“If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it, ever,” Duterte once said when he was still mayor of Davao City. “It remains to be a prohibited item and there’s always a threat of being arrested. If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die.”