Updated on January 22, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
In September of 2017, the House of Representatives Committee on Health approved a bill that would legalize and regulate the use of medical marijuana in the Philippines. This is a huge step forward, as cannabis has been a prohibited substance since the 2002 Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act was enacted.
Although Bill 180, or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, still has a long way to go, this is incredible news for patients in the Philippines who would find relief from pain and discomfort with medical weed.
The Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act would by no means permit the recreational use of medical marijuana. Even the bill’s most ardent defender and author, Representative Rodolfo T. Albano III, ensures they’re not attempting to decriminalize cannabis.
The Republic of the Philippines Department of Health would oversee the program. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has lent his voice of support to the bill and confirmed the DOH would work closely with lawmakers to fine-tune it. They would ensure there are strict guidelines so medical marijuana would not be prone to abuse.
The Food and Drug Administration would also be responsible for quality-control for all medical marijuana medications. They would enforce the highest quality control standards to ensure all cannabis products are safe and effective before they become available to patients.
Once the bill is passed, two types of entities would be created:
The proposed bill would not allow patients to smoke or vaporize cannabis flower. However, they would have access to other forms, such as cannabis oil extracts, tinctures, suppositories, capsules and pills, sprays and topicals.
The United Nations listed cannabis as a Schedule I drug in 1961, and the Philippines backed up this decision by signing the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs treaty. Since then, marijuana use has been illegal in the country. However, even with the passing of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the medical and scientific implementation of cannabis hasn’t been outlawed, but it also hasn’t been regulated.
Marijuana is the second most abused drug in the Philippines. When President Rodrigo Duterte was elected in 2016, he took a staunch anti-drug stance. He has since led a drug war seeking to make the Philippines drug-free by the end of his term in 2022. Despite this, he is unopposed to the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The legalization of HB 180 has a long way to go. It will likely be revised countless times and go through a series of debates and amendments. Then, it will go to a vote in the House of Representatives, and a counterpart will be voted on by the Senate. Only once it’s approved by both houses will it go before the president to either sign or veto. The bill has some vocal detractors, so it may take a while to pass.
Only Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers and Medical Cannabis Research and Safety Compliance Facilities licensed by the DOH will be authorized to cultivate medical marijuana — and only MCCCs can distribute cannabis medications to patients. If the new law passes, only these facilities, medical marijuana patients and caregivers will be exempt from civil and criminal liability.
Thus far, only a set number of conditions are included in the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act to qualify patients for medical marijuana treatments. However, other conditions may be added later as determined by the DOH and a panel of physicians.
The debilitating conditions included in the bill are:
Since the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act hasn’t passed yet, patients can’t get medical marijuana cards yet. However, lawmakers are hoping to pass this bill into law soon. When that happens, patients can apply to the Department of Health. They must:
If approved, they’ll receive an identification card issued by the secretary of the Department of Health.
Because marijuana isn’t legalized yet in the Philippines, the penalty for possession has some serious consequences depending on the amount you are carrying:
Once the bill is passed and the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act is enacted, medical marijuana patients registered with the DOH will be exempt from criminal penalties as long as they follow the guidelines of the law.
As the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act progresses through the House of Representatives and the Senate in the Philippines, changes will occur rapidly. Make sure you have the most up-to-date information by checking back at MarijuanaDoctors.com. We’ll keep you in the loop as news develops.