MARIJUANA is banned but there are exemptions for its “compassionate use,” according to the Department of Health (DOH).
In an interview with GMA 7, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial on Wednesday said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants the exemptions for such use.
“[The law allows it but a] special permit [is needed]to use it for medical purposes,” she added.
The Health chief did not say what the other exemptions are.
Even as bills filed in the Senate and the House of Representatives to legalize marijuana are pending, Ubial said, groups or individuals who want to use marijuana for medical purposes may apply for a special permit from the FDA.
She added that she is aware that some doctors might be recommending marijuana to their patients but the FDA has not received applications for special permits to use the outlawed leaves of the hemp plant for medical treatment.
Ubial’s statements came after movie and television actor Mark Anthony Fernandez claimed that he is using marijuana to prevent cancer.
Mark Anthony mentioned that his father Rudy Fernandez, also a film and TV star, died of cancer a few years ago.
The younger Fernandez was arrested on Monday night after being caught with a kilo of marijuana in Pampanga province, north of Manila.
On the quantity of the marijuana found in Mark Anthony’s possession, Ubial deferred to the Dangerous Drugs Board (DBB) to make an assessment.
“I leave it up to the DBB, [because we have a law that says carrying marijuana beyond a certain quantity is (considered illegal) and cannot be passed (off) as (for use)]for health benefits,” the Health secretary explained.
Marijuana use has been decriminalized in some countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico, where possession and sale of marijuana still come with restrictions.
Colombia, for example, sets the limit at 22 grams for personal use and 20 plants for cultivation.
Some states in the US also recently approved the medical use of marijuana.
Ubial said there are 400 different chemicals in raw marijuana and only one of them has health benefits, cannabidiol (CBD).
Authorities in other countries, she added, are able to separate the chemicals and produce marijuana leaves that have higher CBD content.
In an interview, DDB Executive Director Benjamin Reyes clarified that although the World Health Organization says marijuana use is dangerous, the agency acknowledges that it has “potential” medical benefits.
“[C]ompassionate use of dangerous drugs [has been with us since]1992,” Reyes said.
“[Those who plan to use marijuana for medical purposes should apply for a permit from the FDA. But s specialist should look after the applicant, making sure that dosage is monitored and seeing to it that the applicant knows how to use it],” he added.
He, however, said further studies need to be made to prove marijuana’s medical benefits.
Mark Anthony, 37, tested positive for marijuana.
When he was about 19 years old, he said during a news conference held after his arrest, his mother and former actress Alma Moreno and his doctor said he can use marijuana for medical purposes.
Supt. Aaron Aquino, Philippine National Police (PNP) Central Luzon director, told the actor, “You know, your doctor should be charged for illegally prescribing you marijuana because marijuana use is illegal.”
Reyes agreed, saying while it is possible to file charges against the doctor who prescribed marijuana to Fernandez, no doctor has so far prescribed it for medical purposes.
He said penalty for illegal use depends on the quantity of marijuana found on a person.
“Life [imprisonment]and a fine of half a million [pesos]to 10 million [pesos]are already faced by Mark Anthony for 500 grams of marijuana,” Reyes noted.
The actor will remain at Angeles City (Pampanga) PNP Station 6 while investigation is ongoing.