Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
A bill is in the works to legalize medical marijuana in the Philippines. As of now, even the medicinal use of cannabis is illegal in the country. House Bill 180, or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, is currently working through the country’s legal process.
The Philippines labeled marijuana a Schedule I drug in 1961 after it signed the UN treaty known as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. But in 1972, it clearly defined the illegality of cannabis in the Dangerous Drugs Act. However, the current severe penalties associated with marijuana possession were enacted in the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
House Bill 180, authored by Representative Rodolfo T. Albano III, seeks to legalize medical cannabis for patients with debilitating conditions. In September 2016, it made good headway when it was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives Committee on Health.
The next step will be to make some amendments to the bill, after which it will go before the House of Representatives and the Senate to be voted upon. HB 180 has a long way to go, but patients are hopeful that the government will act compassionately and in the best interest of citizens with health needs.
Like in most countries, the Philippines will have a list of approved debilitating conditions that would qualify for the medical marijuana program, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. Patients will need to receive a diagnosis of this disorder from a certifying physician who is registered with the Philippines Department of Health and meets the following criteria:
After the patient receives a legitimate diagnosis and applies to the Department of Health, they’ll receive an identification card issued by the secretary of the DOH if they qualify. This will give them access to a Medical Cannabis Compassion Center (MCCC), the only location where patients can legally obtain medical marijuana.
The current penalties for possessing even less than five grams of marijuana in the Philippines are quite severe, from hefty fines to years of jail time. Even having drug paraphernalia or equipment can land you in a heap of trouble. According to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the following penalties could apply:
Once the bill is passed and the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act is enacted, medical marijuana patients registered with the DOH will be exempt from criminal penalties if they follow the guidelines of the law.
Currently, all possession of marijuana — including for medical purposes — could result in the above penalties. However, if the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act passes, it will offer certain protections to patients acting in accordance with the laws.
Some prohibited acts will likely include:
Until HB 180 passes, even patients with qualified debilitating conditions can be prosecuted if they’re found in possession of marijuana. However, once the law is enacted, patients will be free from all penalties if they’re careful to follow all guidelines and dosages. Smoking or vaporizing cannabis buds will not be legalized under HB 180, and will thus carry risk of prosecution even for registered patients.
Currently, doctors are unable to prescribe or recommend marijuana treatments in the Philippines. HB 180 will change this and allow physicians to be register with the Department of Health for permission to prescribe cannabis to patients with whom they have a bona fide relationship.
The Philippines are entering a crucial time. The country will either go on to approve the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, allowing patients to receive these incredible treatment options. Or, if the bill is defeated, the government will wind up beginning the entire process over again. Be sure to follow the progression of HB 180 and other cannabis-related legislative decisions around the world at MarijuanaDoctors.com.
You can also check out our blog for interesting articles that answer some common cannabis-related queries.