Do you know that morphine, a drug considered in most areas as illegal substance, is allowed for human consumption for extreme medical cases? Morphine is a very strong painkiller that is prescribed for those who have encountered accidents, those suffering from pain due to cancer, or those who have suffered stroke or heart attack. This seemingly beneficial use of morphine is strictly controlled to avoid the negative side effects such as addiction to the substance.     

In the same manner, there are those who advocate for the approval of the medical use of cannabis, or marijuana. They say that it is time that its good side, its medical benefits, be put to better use for the sake of people who suffer from debilitating diseases such as cancer, depression, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and more. Various clinical trials prove that only a tiny part of the cannabis plant causes the “high” effect, can be regulated, controlled, reduced, or eliminated, to ensure that only its medical properties are utilized.

Right now, there are a few bills that have been submitted for consideration by lawmakers both in the Senate, that of Senator Robinhood Padilla, and the Lower House, those of Representatives Antonio “Tonypet” T. Albano and Pantaleon Alvarez. The version of Representative Pantaleon Alvarez provides full delisting of marijuana among the prohibited substances under the Dangerous Drugs and Substances under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (RA 9165), while that of Representative Antonio “Tonypet” Albano’s version provides a section on the medical use of cannabis. The Padilla Bill is more comprehensive and provides important sections not only on the medical significance of cannabis but also on the limitations and precautions in the implementation of the medical use of marijuana.    

Some quarters may still oppose the said bills, and even if they become law, because of issues such as the weakness of the Philippine Government when it already comes to the implementation of laws. There might be apprehensions because of the possibility that there will be those who might abuse the good intentions of the law by circumventing it for recreational purposes. However, if the benefits would outweigh the dangers and the right safeguards are put in place, these would justify the proposal than reject it. Making this legal will allow those in need to avail of its medical uses, while allowing means to separate illegal users.

There are important points that ordinary people need to hear, comprehend, and understand to have an open mind with regards to the beneficial use of marijuana. First, it is not the recreational use of marijuana that will be promoted but only its medical benefits. Second, cannabis plantations will be strictly regulated that only a few areas in the entire country will be allowed to be set up for the purposes of medical cannabis. Third, important safety precautions would be implemented to eliminate the possibility of addiction.

In an interview during one segment of AgriNegosyo aired last February 27, Scientist–Inventor Richard Nixon Gomez of BauerTek, Inc. provided important points for consideration regarding the promotion of medical cannabis.

It must be emphasized that the issue here is the promotion and utilization of the medical use of cannabis and not for just any use, and especially not for recreational purposes. Even if the medical use of cannabis will already be allowed, it will still be illegal to use marijuana for other purposes, such as achieving a “high”. This is not about making cannabis an everyday consumer product. It is about maximizing its potential medical benefits for the sake of those people who suffer extreme pain to the point of almost dying of pain. We are talking here of providing medical benefit using cannabis in the same way that other dangerous drugs are used which is in only the extreme necessity, when all other possible medications are already incapable of providing the required relief particularly for those who suffer extreme pain because of their sickness.

Regarding the possibility of the proliferation of cannabis plantations, including backyard gardening of the plant, this would still be illegal. Only those plantations that will be provided with license by the government can plant, process, and produce medical cannabis. No one will be allowed to have a personal cannabis garden, even if it would be for a few pots only. This is not the intention of the law. Those who will do so would still be apprehended under the existing laws against possession of dangerous drugs and substances.

Most importantly, cannabis will be subjected to strict processing. The component that may cause a “high” effect, THC, will be regulated, controlled, reduced, or eliminated, while the safer components such as CBD component that provides medical relief, will be produced into pills, tablets, oils, etc. Though these will be available in drugstores, it would not be easily accessible for the consumption of the public. Like morphine, another addictive drug and considered as illegal substance but used for extreme cases as painkiller for cancer patients, people who encountered accidents, stroke patients, etc., medical cannabis can only be prescribed by S2 licensed doctors. These are doctors that are allowed by the PDEA to dispense controlled substances for extreme medical conditions such as those needing very strong painkillers like morphine. Imagine how difficult it is to be prescribed with antibiotics by ordinary doctors. How much more by a S2 licensed doctor?

With regards to safety precautions, another safeguard being provided, is that patients who would need the medical cannabis will be provided with QR code which will be used to identify them being the only persons who can buy the product made of cannabis from drugstores. This code will be crosschecked with the PDEA database who have provided the S2 license to the doctor who prescribed the cannabis product. In succeeding articles, we will discuss more details about these things. For now, let us try to open our minds to the possibility of maximizing the medical benefits of cannabis which in the older times have been used in many parts of the world for various sickness and diseases.