Legalize use of medical marijuana
Think of the hopeful possibilities, the ways by which medical marijuana may ease a patient’s, and consequently a family’s, suffering, and enhance palliative care for end-stage illnesses.
Physicians, nurses and caregivers have been pushing marijuana or cannabis as a medical recourse to mitigate pain in many patients afflicted with grave illnesses and medical conditions. While further intensive research is still needed, there is much anecdotal evidence to back marijuana’s palliative qualities. It has been touted worldwide as a compassionate aid for the terminally ill and the elderly.
In the House of Representatives, the recent endorsement by the committee on health of the proposed Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act raises hope among patients, advocacy groups and other interested parties that the measure would soon reach plenary, be improved and approved in a vote, and ultimately, with the Senate passing its own version, be streamlined and finally enacted into law. Lawmakers are crossing party lines to endorse it.
Authored by Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, the bill proposes that the state “legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis, which has been confirmed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses to treat a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those associated with multiple sclerosis.”
The proposed law would enable “medical cannabis compassionate centers” under license by the Department of Health to sell, supply and dispense the psychoactive drug to qualified patients or their designated caregivers by a pharmacist licensed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
The bill has met opposition from various quarters citing possible abuse. But medical marijuana has notable supporters, including President Duterte himself. “Medicinal marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine. There are medicines being developed, or are now in the market, that contain marijuana for medical purposes,” the President was quoted as saying in 2016. Another high-profile supporter is former health secretary Jaime Galvez Tan, who told Congress that using cannabis is “a safer and cheaper way to treat patients” suffering from epilepsy and other neurological disorders.
Marijuana has long been considered the most accessible of gateway drugs. The belief was that marijuana would lead users to “graduate” to dangerous drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Its users have long been demonized as “stoners” and pejoratively described as lost souls who do nothing but smoke “weed” throughout the day. This remains its stereotypical portrayal in popular culture.
Explaining his measure, Albano said: “It is very clear in the bill that you can’t smoke weed per se. You cannot even dispense it in its raw form and say, ‘Just use this for tea.’ It has to be in medicinal form.”
In a 2012 global drug report commissioned by the United Nations, marijuana was identified as “the world’s most widely produced, trafficked, and consumed drug in the world in 2010.” Its users number between 119 million and 224 million among adults (18 or older) in the world. It is widely illegal worldwide.
The United States, where marijuana was the poster child of the Reagan-era “Just Say No” antidrug campaign, has made a serious turnaround regarding medical marijuana. Today, its usage is legal in 33 states. Canada was the first country to make it legal in 2001, and 32 other countries have followed suit. Hopefully, the Philippines will soon be part of the enlightened list.
An efficient information campaign will help Filipinos understand that medical marijuana is a humane and perhaps even necessary tool in helping those afflicted with painful or life-threatening diseases or conditions. Legally and properly administered, it will usher in a new and helpful realm of medical possibilities.
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